This photo entitled “How To Not Doze Off” is from the 1905 book “East and War” by Russian writer V.M. Doroshevich which described the Doroshevich’s travels to India. The subject of the photo is a student at Madras University.
Ergonomics has come a long way in the area of improving how we sit and perform tasks since the time of this photo.
- We no longer need to nail strands of hair to the wall to keep us from falling asleep as we study – movement breaks can help.
- We know that chairs with proper back support are better for us – so that we don’t fall into a forward leaning posture.
- We know (much like our parents told us) to keep our elbows off the table – it causes us to shrug our shoulders.
- We know that reading materials (or our computer screens) should be placed in a position relative to the height of our eyes (when we are in an optimal seating position) – so that we don’t flex our neck and shrug our shoulders while looking down.
For all of that knowledge, we know better. We know what to do to place our bodies in optimal positions to perform seated tasks in an efficient manner.
But, over the last couple of weeks I have heard the following from employees of different employers:
- “They got rid of the adjustable chairs in the control room and replaced them with hard back non-adjustable chairs because they didn’t want us to fall asleep or get comfortable in the control room.”
- “We need comfortable chairs to work in this room but the team in that room should not have comfortable seating. If they are comfortable, they won’t be as detail oriented as they need to be.”
Both of these comments come from positions that don’t understand that good ergonomics can keep workers comfortable while allowing them to pay better attention to the tasks that they are performing. These comments are counterproductive as they advocate for working postures and habits that place employees at risk for musculoskeletal injuries.
Providing appropriate seating for the task as well as education to employees on the best ways to set up their workstations – whether onsite or at home – can go a long way in improving employee performance and reducing the risks of musculoskeletal injuries. Lost time from those injuries can cause delays and increased costs that far outweigh the cost of optimizing their workstation.
Whether an office based work area, a workstation in a lab, or some type of industrial task, we can help you to identify potential ergonomic risks and help you to make the changes that will reduce musculoskeletal risks to your and your employees.
**Hat tip to writer and author Neal Bascomb who recently used this photo on a post for his excellent “Work/Craft/Life” blog. I would have never seen this photo if he hadn’t posted it.