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Preventing Carpal Tunnel In Employees: 4 Office Place Tips
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be something of a joke around the office, as well as among gamers, and is often seen as a uniquely modern complaint: the result of too much time attending to technology. In reality, though, carpal tunnel, which is caused by swelling around the median nerve in the wrist, is a painful and sometimes debilitating condition and it needs to be taken seriously, especially in the workplace.
Employees with carpal tunnel are not only less productive due to associated pain, but depending on workplace conditions, they may even have a legal case against your business. Luckily, these four simple changes can help make employees more comfortable and improve performance, all while decreasing risk strain that leads to carpal tunnel. It’s a win-win approach to a common problem.
If you want to decrease the likelihood your employees will develop carpal tunnel syndrome, the most important thing you can do is to build a work environment based on ergonomic principles – and that means emphasizing flexibility. Workers who sit at a computer, for example, should be able to place their feet on the floor, position their elbows at a right angle to the keyboard with straight wrists, and look straight ahead at the screen.
This may sound straightforward, but when you consider that workers are all different heights and sizes, things get more complicated. Supply employees with foot rests, adjustable chairs, and computer stands so they can adapt their space to match their individual needs.
Though many of the jokes about carpal tunnel syndrome center on office work, the condition is often caused by repetitive motion injuries. In fact, according to the CDC, those who work in food preparation and apparel manufacturing are among the most at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. Unfortunately, because repetitive motions are the norms of such jobs, most workers don’t realize they are eligible for workers compensation for repetitive motion injuries; some may not even realize they have carpal tunnel syndrome, despite severe pain.
You can protect your workers and your company by minimizing repetitive motion tasks. This may require a high degree of reorganization, such as training workers to perform several different assembly or processing tasks, but if they are varying their standard motions or rotating through different roles, workers are less likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
There are some doctors and scientists who say that sitting is the new smoking; essentially, being sedentary is the most serious health threat facing Americans today. But even if the situation is not quite that dire, employees can benefit from moving more during the day. Share simple desk yoga exercises workers can do without ever leaving the office. Because yoga emphasizes the importance of bodily alignment, short yoga breaks can remind employees to check their posture and ensure they’re in the optimal working position.
Though many office workers will welcome the opportunity to stretch while remaining seated, it’s also important to encourage a wider range of motions. Standing and moving reduces pressure on the spine and can minimize the likelihood of other workplace injuries, such as disc degeneration, and it’s an opportunity to give the hands and arms a deeper stretch. By simply standing placing the hands flat on the desk and then leaning into the stretch, it’s possible to reduce strain on the wrists and protect them against carpal tunnel syndrome.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome among employees is to be responsive to their needs. Don’t haggle over requests for a better chair, a monitor stand, or an adaptive mouse. Your employees need the right tools to do their jobs safely and comfortably. If you’re willing to help them find the right solutions, they’ll be more satisfied and loyal. You can’t build a flexible workplace that meets employee needs without equally flexible leadership.
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