An Ergonomist from D.C. Talks Standing Desks, Ergonomics and Habit Change
Earlier this year, I got to sit down with Debra Lieberman, OTR/L, CEAS of Ergoworks Consulting, a company focused on injury prevention and providing the services of ergonomic specialists in the D.C. area. Debra started her career as an occupational therapist for adults, helping people change their environments to meet the needs of their injuries. Debra then spent time doing hand therapy at Fairfax Hospital and worked on repetitive strain injuries in outpatient clinics. Even today, she notices people are overusing their hands, especially on iPhones.
Ergonomics is important for any company who values their employees and Ergoworks is great place to find consultants for this purpose. Their clients are varied across industries such as government and tech companies. A typical work day for Debra includes client visits where she will see what their space looks like and what their needs are. Maybe they have a doctor’s note already and need to address a specific complaint. She also consults companies that are moving or expanding. Lately, Debra has noticed more use of open environments or collaborative seating. She says in these new spaces, companies buy average priced desks, and put the big bucks into ergonomic chairs. Only later they realize they want their employees to have the option to stand at work, and then they order desktop standing desks, such as the Stand Steady X-ELITE PRO.
Debra says clients are purchasing ergonomic furniture from both furniture suppliers and online vendors. Some clients have a specific vendor list and then Ergoworks shops within the constraints of that list. Alternatively, some clients are able to shop anywhere, and then Debra will recommend range of ergonomic products and have the client choose accordingly. Additionally, there are people who telework and need individual assessments.
Within the industry, Debra has noticed that some companies have a Wellness Director and even staff Ergonomists, which is a new trend. This is definitely a sign that companies are ready to put money into prevention and workplace wellness. While companies are investing in adjustable workstations from the start, there is also a large segment of ergonomic products being purchased by individuals. Debra prefers to recommend electronic stand-alone desks, rather than a crank assisted desk. Debra says, “when you already have a repetitive injury, you don’t want to use a crank that could cause further injury.”
The path to an ergonomic office is not easily paved, not due to lack of investment in Wellness Directors and ergonomic products; rather, it’s hard to get humans to change their habits. Debra adds, “People don’t want to make changes to their environments. They don’t want to stand, but when they are in chronic pain or have an injury, they need to take more breaks throughout their day.”
Debra is available to consult individuals and companies on a variety of ergonomic needs and emphasizes that she does not recommend any one product line, compared to other consulting companies. She also points out that a lot of ergonomic issues can be solved inexpensively such as using reams of paper to get the monitor to the correct height.
If you would like to arrange a consultation contact:
Debra Lieberman, OTR/L, CEAS
Great question. No, ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment.
I don’t get it. Isn’t ergonomics just physical therapy??