May 2019 – Static Postures and Movement While Using Computers

There’s certainly been a flurry of news about the perils of chronic sitting in the workplace over the past few years, for solid reasons.

It’s also well-understood, however, how chronic standing is also well-known to be unhealthy, contributing to lower extremity swelling and venous pooling, higher incidence of varicose veins, lower extremity discomfort and fatigue, lower back pain, and general body and mental fatigue.

In fact, your intrepid author recently noticed an article in Washington Post which cited a study in the journal Ergonomics concluding “Standing is being used to replace sitting by office workers; however, there are health risks associated with prolonged standing. In a laboratory study…prolonged standing discomfort increased (all body areas), reaction time and mental state deteriorated while creative problem-solving improved. Prolonged standing should be undertaken with caution.

Clearly, there needs to be some balance between sitting and standing during our work, however, should the primary issue really be about “sitting versus standing” or about “reducing static postures and encouraging movement“?

  • Identify OpportunitiesOne of the fundamentally wrong messages employees may have heard is that standing in one place, rather than sitting in one place, will help one lose extra pounds, ward off negative effects of too much sitting and improve our hearts. When researching it, you quickly find that the Standing Movement’s pundits are really promoting ‘movement’ rather than static postures.

We have many very useful and adjustable choices in the office furniture and equipment marketplace today. Adjustable-height work surfaces (sit/stand), for example, when used with anti-fatigue mats, very definitely should be recognized as very useful pieces of equipment, so long as they are used. When not used, however, they can be a tremendous waste of money and tragic in that they could have helped to prevent discomfort and eventual recordable injuries.

So what are the best ways to ensure proper long term use of the equipment and furniture you’ve purchased and attain maximum value? The answers all come from understanding human behavior and the Novelty Effect.

Is The Value In ‘The Tool’ or In ‘The Use of The Tool’ or Both?

The way in which we conduct ourselves is termed our behavior and helping employees adopt a regimen of periodic movement during their workday is a matter of behavioral change. Movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles and to stimulate removal of natural waste byproducts from muscles and tissue. Solid research shows that building a variety of movement into each day is a key in reversing the deleterious effects of static postures while sitting or standing.

So what happens, for example, when we deliver a highly-adjustable new office chair or shiny new sit/stand work surface to an employee? Of course, they’ll be excited and revel in its newness for a few weeks but, longer term, do we expect them to abandon their current behaviors developed over years? Perhaps we might give them a product brochure or a website or pay even more money to bring in consultants to give employees some training or a pep talk?

What happens after the honeymoon novelty phase of having anything new passes? You already know the answer.

Changing Behavior Requires Behavior Change Principles

For more than a decade, a fundamental understanding within office ergonomics has been how the process of “mitigating risk factors” includes interventions of various types (e.g. using adjustable workstation components, workstation analysis, adjustment, employee training, etc…) which are all singularly purposed to foster good employee behaviors such as working in neutral postures, moving about during your workday and taking microbreaks while working, inter alia.

Yes, each of these interventions are important in setting the stage for the employee to “begin their behavior
change journey
“, however, it will be an unfulfilled hope and misunderstanding to then expect that behavior change will be automatic and appear on its own after that point in time.

Almost 100 years of Applied Behavioral Analysis data clearly teaches that without operant conditioning and continual reinforcement at the point-of-use, then long term behavior change is at best remote and unlikely in any human experience other than immediate life-threatening scenarios

  • Not EnoughPlainly speaking, we cannot get around this most basic of facts and our “Lost Time Case Rates relating to Office Ergonomics” cannot and will not be tamed without embracing this basic precept of human behavior (see study references elsewhere on this site). We are, after all, earnestly working to improve employee behaviors.

The highly effective concept of “crowding out” refers to introducing and positively reinforcing good behaviors rather than focusing the individual on having to always remember to “not do something”. It’s about positive reinforcement versus negative reinforcement. There is only so much time in each day and so over time the poor behaviors abate.

The Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change:

  1. Relying on willpower for long-term change.

  2. Attempting big leaps instead of baby steps.

  3. Ignoring how environment shapes behaviors.

  4. Trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new ones.

  5. Blaming failures on lack of motivation.

  6. Underestimating the power of triggers.

  7. Believing that information leads to action.

  8. Focusing on abstract goals more than concrete behaviors.

  9. Seeking to change behavior forever, not for a short time.

  10. Assuming that behavior change is difficult.

Source: Stanford University

Behavior change is at the core of one of several primary unique values within ErgoSuite Enterprise which underpins our clients’ success.

Your ErgoSuite: Corporate-Grade Next Generation Office Ergonomics Software

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  • Nearly 400 Risk Metrics
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