From time to time, everyone thinks work is a pain in the neck. But
for some people, it really is.
In 1999, the latest year for which detailed statistics are
available, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than
128,000 professional and administrative workers in America missed
at least one day of work due to musculoskeletal, or
Designing an office space with ergonomics in mind can reduce
your own pain or avoid injury among your workers, boost
productivity and limit liability. “Ergonomics isn’t rocket
science,” said Judy Leese, senior ergonomics program manager for
furniture maker Herman Miller.
“It’s essentially designing work spaces that allow employees to
feel comfortable and prevent injuries.”
The three most likely injuries for office-based workers such as
travel agents are:
" Repetitive motion injuries from doing the same task over and
" Neck, shoulder and wrist injuries from improperly positioned
screens and keyboards.
" Back injuries from chairs that are poorly engineered or
adjusted improperly. And while you could spend thousands of dollars
on consultants and spiffy office gear, Tony Lathrop, a workers’
compensation attorney with the law firm of Moore & Van Allen,
says that getting “ergonomically correct” doesn’t have to be
“A small agency probably isn’t going to be able to afford an
expensive ergonomic consultant,” he said. “But you have some
resources. Your attorney, for instance, can help you determine
state and federal regulations, as well as your exposure to
liability. And your insurance agent can give you ergonomics
guidance, and might even come to your office for an audit.”
Keith Lessner, vice president of safety and environment for the
Alliance of American Insurers, said most insurers are happy to
offer free advice, if not hands-on consultation.
“Regulations vary from state to state,” he cautioned, “but in
general you want to create work plans that alternate tasks
throughout the day and design workstations to avoid undue stress,
which may require special equipment.”
Even if you’re on a limited budget, you can benefit from the
principles of ergonomics by evaluating your work space, using these
" Fit the worker one size doesn’t fit all, so design each
workstation to suit the height, weight and reach of each
" Fit the task while some employees use the telephone more than
the computer, others spend much of their day filing so design
stations to make executing tasks more efficient.
" Build in flexibility create workstations and work plans that
allow employees to change postures and vary tasks to avoid
repetitive motion injuries.
“The single most important piece of ergonomic office furniture
is the chair,” Leese said.
“It’s very important that it allows you to change postures and
positions you should be able to roll easily, lean back, sit up and
do a little rocking. It should also move up and down to adjust for
It’s also crucial for your feet to be on the floor. “If they
don’t reach, you should use a platform to reduce stress on your
She highly recommends the Aeron chair, designed and sold by
Herman Miller, but getting the most adjustable seat you can afford
is the main thing.
Even if you or the agency owner doesn’t have cash to spare, you
can reduce injuries and improve productivity simply by paying
attention to how you arrange your desk.
And get moving. “Be sure to shift positions as often as
possible; and get up and walk around periodically,” Leese said.
Movement hydrates the disks in the spine and relieves muscle
tension and joint stiffness.
In short, giving your home office or agency an ergonomic
makeover can take some of the pain out of your workday.
" Bureau of Labor Statistics: www.bls.gov
" Alliance of American Insurers: www.allianceai.org
" Design Within Reach: www.designwithinreach.com
" Herman Miller for Business:
" Tony Lathrop at Moore & Van Allen:
" Occupational Safety and Health Administration: