A recent report by Digby Brown Solicitors revealed that a large proportion of the 600,000 or so workplace injuries recorded every year in the UK, can be rooted back to outdated and unsafe office furniture.
The statistics found that in the tax year 2016-17, UK workers missed 31.2 million days through medical reasons, costing UK companies around £14.9billion and representing an increase of almost one million on the year prior.
This is a real concern for many modern businesses, but by investing in safe office furniture, a company not only reduces the risk of its employees developing musculoskeletal disorders such as damage to the joints in the neck and back, but also enhances their productivity.
Most modern offices are becoming more aware of the dangers surrounding uncomfortable and outdated furniture, but unfortunately, there is still some way to go.
The detrimental effects of sitting on unsupportive chairs can cause injuries including long-term damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs and blood vessels.
It is fundamental, therefore, that employers take the appropriate precautions to invest in office solutions that nurture an employee’s physical health, as opposed to compromising on safety.
Ergonomic furniture is specifically designed for efficiency and comfort in the working environment. Differing from traditional office furniture, ergonomic solutions, such as chairs, ensure the user’s body is kept in a safe and upright position to reduce stress on the spine, neck and hips.
This is achieved by a head rest which supports the neck and shoulders, and a back rest to support the natural curve of the spine. Simple features like these can prevent cervical spondylosis (neck arthritis) in later life.
To further support posture, you can adjust the height of an ergonomic chair to ensure you are sitting with your feet flat on the floor and your knees at a 90-degree angle, parallel to your hips. Even just sitting on an ergonomic chair avoids exerting pressure on your hips, with a seat depth of two to four inches from the back of your knees.
The adjustability of an ergonomic chair is its fundamental function. Most traditional office chairs can’t be adapted, which can increase the risk of workplace injuries.
Another growing trend in ergonomics, and fast becoming compulsory in some offices, is the sit-stand desk, which is designed to get staff up and moving more.
A variety of shapes, sizes and mechanisms reduces the risk of aches, injuries, cardiovascular disease, which can be reduced by up to 40 per cent, and other unhealthy effects brought on by prolonged sitting. In fact, an employee’s muscle activity is almost 2.5 times higher when standing at work, which further reduces the risk of sustaining a workplace injury.
Due to its gas spring arm system, it can be effortlessly moved from sitting to standing in just mere seconds, and the workstation can be easily moved out of the way to provide access to desktops.
Other ergonomic solutions include keyboards that can help increase typing speeds by reducing repetitive reaching and stretching, and pivotal monitors that allow employees to focus on their screens for longer periods of time, by reducing eye strains and headaches.
All of these solutions ensure employee safety by reducing the risk of injury, while also protecting and promoting their wellbeing.
The report by Digby Brown Solicitors also found stress to be one of the highest reasons workers were absent from work.
But while excessively high workloads, unrealistic deadlines and unnecessary pressure can cause employees to suffer from stress-related illnesses, many businesses aren’t aware that by investing in workspaces spaces that promote mental wellbeing, absentees can be reduced.
‘Biophilic’ office designs offer a more open, human-centered approach to a working environment, by incorporating features such as large, open window views, plants and natural materials such as wood, stone and water features.
As humans, we have a deep-rooted genetic connection to the natural world around us, so working in an office that has plants and greenery can soothe and inspire the mind.
In fact, research by the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that by adding one plant per square mile in an office, employees were 15 per cent more productive than those without plants in their office.
Stress-related illnesses are a major contributor of disease, but by incorporating direct or indirect elements of nature into an office, companies can effectively reduce an employee’s stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates, whilst increasing productivity and creativity.
Another way of tackling stress in the workplace is by investing in breakout zones or ‘Resimercial’ designs, where staff can take some time away from the screen to reenergise themselves, whether that be through unwinding on comfy furniture, socialising with colleagues or even playing games such as pool or table tennis.
Having an area where employees can relax will improve wellness and alleviate stress, while also encouraging movement and fostering interaction among colleagues.
At Cobus, we understand the detrimental impact outdated furniture and office layouts can have on an employee’s physical health and mental wellbeing. Our 40 years of experience in designing and fitting interiors for businesses enables us to offer solutions that significantly reduce workplace injuries.
Empowering employers with the highest quality office solutions will in turn lead to greater productivity and quality of work, all while protecting and promoting their employee’s wellbeing.
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