As more people find working from home their new normal, so does the reality that slouched on a couch for hours on end with their laptop balanced on knees isn’t going to cut it.
Even setting up at the dining room table or that old computer desk that for decades has gathered dust can have drawbacks as arms begin to ache and backaches begin.
It soon becomes apparent though home can be a great place to work during this pandemic, it wasn’t designed for your job and may not add to your productivity, says Ahwatukee business owners Michael Rubino and Ronda Moriarty.
Their company, Ergologics, combines 35 years of experience in ergonomics with more than 18,000 evaluations of workplaces.
Now, the pair has expanded their business to provide virtual evaluations of the home offices of the burgeoning ranks of telecommuters.
“We thought about how we could still help folks during this time of crisis,” said Rubino a biomedical engineer. “That’s when we decided to start offering remote ergonomic evaluations to help people set themselves up in their new, home environment.”
He and Moriarty, who holds a doctorate in physical therapy, use the video conferencing app ZOOM to help people build a workplace at home that will be kind to their body.
First, they evaluate the client’s current devices and workstation and then, Rubino explained:
“We’ll then talk to them about any discomforts they’re experiencing, about proper ergonomic set-up and offer them some helpful tips to make them more comfortable. Then we’ll also send them a written report regarding any equipment or furniture that we’d recommend for purchase.”
One of their goals is not only to make workspaces more comfortable and productive, but to minimize the risk of injury.
“We look at the physical demands of the job to decrease the risks of injury and illness while enhancing productivity,” he said.
And with workers viewing their at-home workstations as a temporary stop-gap, Rubino said his company’s evaluations take into consideration their client’s budgetary limits.
“A good adjustable ergonomic chair would be great if everyone could afford one, however that’s not always the case, especially during this difficult time,” he said.
“If I am assisting someone who’s working from home and all they have is a hard, flat back kitchen chair, I will give them some suggestions on how to make that chair more comfortable – for example purchasing a memory foam cushion or lumbar support for their lower back.”
If the customer is prepared to seek a better supporting chair for their home office, Ergologics can make it more cost-effective.
“In my written report, I’ll also give them a recommendation for a new ergonomic chair, if needed. If they choose to purchase it and use the furniture vendor we recommend, they’ll get 50 percent off of the retail price,” he said.
“If, however, they’re only working at home temporarily, a new chair may not be an option they want to pursue,” he added. “The ultimate goal is to make them as comfortable as possible with cheaper items or items that are available in their home.”
Even with the best scenario utilizing the best chairs and workstations, Ronda Moriarty said paying attention to your spine is always important.
“As I teach in my postural classes, maintaining good postural habits is good prevention to minimize injuries, and especially when sitting or standing at your desk,” said Moriarty, an adjunct professor at Mesa Community College.
“Posture involves the chain-link concept of body mechanics in which problems anywhere along the body chain can lead to problems above or below that point. For example: your head being too far forward or rearward causes headaches, eyestrain, neck and upper back pain and lower back or knee pain can cause pelvic joint disorders.
“Sometimes the effects of posture can be far reaching, involving respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems as well as the musculoskeletal system. Good posture also contributes to good appearance, poise confidence and dignity.”
Moriarty, a fan of “positive quotes,” said one of her favorites is, “Of all the things you wear, posture is the most important.”
Rubino and Moriarty’s business venture sprouted after the loss of their long-term employment.
They worked for the county as senior ergonomic specialists – he for 21 years and she more than 13.
“Unfortunately, in 2018, the county decided to outsource the ergonomic functions to an outside vendor and we were both laid off,” Rubino recalled.
“After working jobs that we were unhappy with for about a year, we both realized we truly missed ergonomics, and missed being able to help people feel more comfortable at work,” Rubino said.
“With our combined 35 years of experience in the ergonomics field with over 18,000 evaluations conducted we both knew that we didn’t want all of our knowledge and our desire to help people go to waste,” he said.
So last year they started Ergologics, which they call “a comprehensive ergonomics company that can help businesses and individuals with all of their ergonomics needs.”
To date, most of Ergologic’s clients were businesses wishing to ensure their employees were healthy and productive.
“By focusing on the health and comfort of the people doing the job, businesses were able to greatly reduce absenteeism, decrease lost work days due to sickness, doctor visits, workers compensation costs and ultimately health insurance premiums. It is and was a win-win situation for the employee and the business,” he stated.
As COVID-19 caused unprecedented numbers of employees to work from home, helping others make the best of their workspace now has Ergologics addressing that via online consultations.
“We hope that by offering this service we can help reduce the stress that many people are feeling during these trying times and make their self-quarantine a little more tolerable and comfortable,” said Rubino, who lives in Ahwatukee with his wife Michele and their 14-year-old son.
Even while focusing on the at-home employee, they’re still working with corporations and business entities.
“We gladly offer a free workshop or in-service to anyone that wants to learn about what our company has to offer, or we can teach a free basic ergonomic class,” said Moriarty.