In the first series of the Small Business Success series AAMI presents instalment eight: ‘Avoiding the 9 to 5 Health Hammer.’
For those spending more time in the office than they do at home it is imperative to create and maintain an optimal working space that’s complimentary to health, and to the general welfare of the working environment. Those who work from home are in a better position to manipulate their environment to cultivate health and safety around their work station, however there are still ways of optimising work place well-being, whether you are a sole trader working independently from your own office or a contractor sharing office premises.
When you spend almost 40 hours a week (or more) doing work in a repetitive manner it can become problematic to health, especially when it is work involving a computer. There are basic workstation steps that can act as preventative measures against office-induced injuries such as eye-strain, and repetitive strain syndrome.
1. Optimising your workspace
How many times a day do you sit for more than one hour a day at your desk without standing up? Did you know that this may be problematic to your back, neck or shoulders? According to WorkSafe nearly 20 percent of all workplace related injuries stem from computer use and repetitive operational activities. These injuries are related to neck, shoulder, forearm, back, wrist and fingers.
Assuming that all chairs, monitors and monitor rests have an adjustment option, the worker should ensure that their thighs are parallel to the floor and their knees and elbow height to desk make a 90 degree angle to ensure that the back is not tilted.
Providing headsets and wireless mouses will ensure workers have less strain on their wrists and posture, allowing ease of use throughout their work day.
WorkCover also suggests that the desk layout should allow minimal strain, requiring less twisting movements on the back and should be around 6.25 square metres in size, allocating enough room for personal and work space.
Computer monitors should be at least 3-4 feet away from the seated position and a mouse should be positioned next to the edge of the keyboard to avoid arm strain.
2. Eye care
There is no hard evidence to suggest that using computers casually can be a harmful practice, however it is the prolonged usage and eye focusing which can cause problems such as red eye, headache, and shoulder and neck pain.
Strain on the eyes (Computer Vision Syndrome) is particularly problematic for the younger generations who have grown up using computers from an early age, as they have been raised using technology and looking at screens for prolonged periods of time. The best eye care method for looking at computer screens for long periods of time is to keep the eyes lubricated. This can involve frequent blinking, as we often forget to do this as often when looking at computer monitor. Also keeping eyes drops on hand can be handy for long periods of eye strain.
During the colder months a cold or flu virus can spread through an office environment like wildfire. And knowing how quickly germs can spread via touching equipment and sharing communal appliances, many instances of sickness can probably be avoided if workers remember to wash hands for at least 20 seconds when visiting the bathroom. Unwashed hands can often pass on germs to the mouth, face, and eyes throughout the day from desktop use, touching telephones and touching the face.
Antibacterial liquid or alcoholic wipes are recommended for wiping down hands and work spaces frequently as they eliminate much of the germs that may be hiding on fingers and residing on desktop spaces. These sanitisers are normally available as a wipe or in a bottle, and may also be handy for high traffic areas such as appliance handles.
4. Keeping hydrated
Surprisingly, drinking more water can actually keep you alert as the body is constantly being hydrated. If workers are engaging in frequent caffeine drinking, they are also advised to up their water intake as they will become dehydrated and therefore fatigued quickly.
If you’re in a position to manipulate the lighting of your workspace, take advantage of this. This is easier accomplished if working from home as you can experiment with dimmers and lamps. Also make sure that there is no light reflected on your monitor screen as it disturbs your vision. Screen glare can disturb the eyes in long term situations, so if you are seated near a window consider a tinted monitor screen to cut out sun light.
What most workers may not realise is that every hour of sleep received before midnight is actually worth twice as much those hours received after 12. Getting a set amount of sleep every night can ensure that you are working at your optimum capacity during the next working day and not lagging behind the computer. It is more a matter of going to bed around the same time each night than it is getting the same amount of hours every night.
When the small business owner wears the OH&S hat
Small business owners may not have access to an OH&S officer which means they inherit the tasks of overseeing the work safety of themselves and their staff. Even if you are only a sole person enterprise, you still need to mindful of safe workstation practices even if you think that it may not be relevant. RMIT University offers a free checklist for correctly setting up a workstation for chair, desk, computer, telephone, and desk stationery. If you are a small business owner seeking additional advice around office health visit WorkSafe.
With small businesses running on less core staff the level of productivity is less conducive when workplace health is compromised. A missed day of work is potentially highly disruptive if you are a sole trader. Long term office-related injuries can be avoided by paying attention to basic office procedures and monitoring the day-to-day health practices of workers.
This article is presented by Australian Associated Motor Insurers Ltd (AAMI, ABN 92 004 791 744), the issuer of AAMI property insurance products. AAMI has not taken into account your objectives, financial situation or insurance needs. Please consider the relevant PDS at aami.com.au