With 2023 just around the corner, it’s time to get ahead of the biggest ergonomic trends for the upcoming year.
Ergonomics is not a new concept but with an increased number of hybrid and remote workers, new ergo risk factors have emerged that must be addressed early to prevent long-term discomforts.
Below, are tips and resources to address the top ergo trends for the home and office in 2023, which include:
Ergonomic Trend #1 - Hot Desking (Shared Workspaces)
Hot Desking is a flexible desking arrangement that more and more companies are utilizing due to hybrid workforces. It allows employees to sit at any desk they want in the workspace on a first-come, first-serve basis. Its name was inspired by “Hot Decking”, a practice used by sailors who share the same bunk with others who work on different shifts.
What are the Benefits of Hot Desking?
Hot Desking has many benefits for employees and employers. According to OfficeSpace, some of these benefits include:
- Improved space utilization
- Cost savings
- Better employee relationships
- Improved collaboration
- Hybrid work flexibility
- Employee satisfaction
- Workplace cleanliness
While there are plenty of benefits of Hot Desking, this practice does not come without its fair share of ergonomic risk factors.
What are the Ergonomic Risks of Hot Desking?
Hot Desking involves transporting computer and desk equipment as employees cannot store equipment at the shared desk. Additionally, since employees do not have a consistent workspace, it eliminates their ability to customize the work area to their own needs and requires that customization be redone daily.
Let’s look at both primary ergonomic risks individually.
Preventing Injuries While Transporting Equipment in a Hot Desking Workplace
- Use a padded backpack or rolling bag – this will reduce contact stress on the shoulders, back, and neck.
- When using a backpack, use both straps or switch shoulders regularly - this prevents some of the tension in muscles between the neck and shoulders.
- Avoid pulling rolling bags with the shoulder extended behind the body – it is more ergonomically correct to push the bag or maintain a neutral shoulder position.
Ergonomic Tips for Shared Desks and Hot Desking Workplaces
- If possible, adjust the chair first - ensure that the backrest is supporting the lumbar curve of the low back, and adjust the seat pan to allow for a small space behind the knee. If the chair is not adjustable or does not have adequate lumbar support, use a rolled-up towel or t-shirt to supplement.
- If the desk is height-adjustable, adjust it to your resting elbow height - if not, adjust the chair so that you are working close to elbow height. Use a footrest to support the feet, if one is available.
- Elevate the laptop screen - the top third of the screen should be at eye level using a laptop riser or a makeshift riser (reams of paper are often a great option).
- Use an external keyboard and mouse – this allows the laptop screen to be elevated and creates better neutral positioning for the shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
- Take regular stretch and movement breaks – this will help counteract some of the stress being placed on the body by poor ergonomic circumstances.
- Schedule virtual or onsite ergonomic assessments and training from certified ergonomists – getting Briotix Health’s professional ergonomists’ eyes on workstations can help employees identify practical setups and techniques that they can replicate at their workstation day after day. It also empowers employees with knowledge they can use as the work environment evolves.
Below is a helpful checklist for when using a shared desk to ensure you’re protecting yourself:
Ergonomic Trend #2 - Hybrid Workers and Home Offices
As a result of the pandemic, many companies have increased the working from home option for employees. Working from home allows employees to complete their tasks while minimizing the risk of exposure to illnesses and germs from co-workers in a shared workspace. However, working from home is not entirely risk-free either. Hybrid workers who don’t work from home a majority of the time often don’t bother to set up a permanent workstation in their home, and even the ones that work all or the majority of their hours at home, don't regularly take ergonomics into as much consideration as aesthetics.
What are the Ergonomic Risks of Working from a Home Office?
Depending on how employees set up their workstations, they can be exposing themselves to several ergonomic risks that can lead to chronic issues down the road. Some of the most common ergonomic issues with home offices are:
- Poor sitting posture – Whether it’s sitting on a couch, recliner, bed, kitchen chair, or the floor, the back, neck, and shoulders will be placed under a great deal of strain without proper posture and joint support.
- Text neck – We tend to look down at our phones more and more throughout the day causing a forward head rounded shoulder posture or "text neck". This can be exacerbated if you’re consistently working from a laptop or monitor that isn’t aligned properly with your eyes to allow for a neutral neck posture.
- Increased monitor sizes – Monitor sizes are getting bigger and bigger, just like TV and phone screens. This can be nice for multi-tasking, easier readability, and overall aesthetic, but larger screens also mean more necessary neck movement and strain on the eyes if not placed far enough away from the user.
- Wrist and forearm inflammation – Laptop keyboards tend to be too small, and touchpads don’t facilitate good wrist and elbow posture. Using these for an extended amount of time without proper injury prevention techniques can lead to chronic conditions such as carpal tunnel, medial epicondylitis (also known as golfer’s and little leaguer’s elbow), and lateral epicondylitis (also known as tennis elbow).
- Too much sitting or standing – Many home office workers end up with sit-stand desks. These are commonly misused due to a misunderstanding of the product’s purpose. Sit-stand desks were designed to be used for both sitting AND standing. Many people do not use them correctly and end up doing too much of one or the other. Below is a free resource to help you maximize your sit-stand desk.
Ergonomic Tips for Hybrid Workers and Home Offices
The same tips mentioned above for shared desks and hot desking environments can be utilized for home offices as well. Additionally, with home offices, employees have some additional control over their experience. Take advantage of the complete customizability of your home to ensure you have a proper and safe workspace.
There are plenty of free ways to improve your home office setup. All that’s required is some creativity. Some examples of free solutions (or at least solutions you can achieve with common household items) include:
- Roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back to increase lumbar support.
- Put an old shoe box or block of wood under your feet to serve as a footrest if your feet don’t reach the floor.
- Stack reams of paper or books under your laptop to raise it up to eye level.
Here is a helpful resource to use when considering the setup of your workspace.
Ergonomic Trend #3 - Zoom Fatigue
“Zoom Fatigue” is the term used to describe the feelings of exhaustion that can occur when video calls are frequent. Being on camera, tech issues, and being confined to a screen are factors that can aggravate fatigue.
Tips to Reduce Risks of Zoom Fatigue
We’ve all experienced it at some point; the seemingly never-ending meetings, hearing “how’s the weather by you?” for the thousandth time. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, RingCentral, and every other video conferencing software have made remote work a possibility, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing as well.
There are a variety of ways to minimize the effects of Zoom fatigue and prevent stress and tension-associated issues, such as:
- Set up your workstation for a supported, relaxed posture and viewing of the screen.
- Stay hydrated by sipping water at your desk.
- Schedule meetings to allow for adequate prep time and a break before the next meeting starts.
- Block off “meeting-free” time on your schedule. Schedule screen-free time at work and at home. Take lunch breaks away from all screens.
- If approved, turn off the webcam for short periods to move and stretch.
- Turn off “self-view” to feel less distracted and less self-conscious.
- Have a timed agenda and be concise so that meetings don’t drag on longer than necessary.
- Relax your eyes with the 20:20:20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
Addressing Ergonomic Risks in 2023
The top ergonomic trends for hybrid and office workers are:
- Hot desking
- Hybrid workers and home offices
- Zoom fatigue
These trends are here to stay and can have long-term detrimental effects on employees if not appropriately addressed. Briotix Health’s Ergonomic Specialists' best-practice methodology and next-generation technology support employees both onsite and virtually, as well as empower employees to manage their own workstations.
To get more information about Briotix Health and the robust line of occupational health and ergonomic services, click the button below.