When you hear or read the term “ergonomic equipment”, what is the first thing that appears to your mind? Probably an ergonomic chair, a sit-stand desk, a keyboard and mouse with weird shapes, but you probably wouldn’t consider a ream of paper to be the best ergonomic tool. Well for many reasons, it is.
Ergonomics is the science of interaction between humans and the systems they work in. Proper ergonomic practices mean that the system is adapted to the individual’s needs and capacities, rather than the opposite.
One main aspect of the system we work in is its design; for the global majority who work on their computers, this is represented by the workstation design. The office workstation design includes the desk, chair, monitor, keyboard, mouse, phone, and any other tool and equipment.
How is a ream of paper ergonomic?
Replacing adjustable monitors
One ergonomic function of paper reams is to replace a height-adjustable monitor. This is more essential in an office setting with desktop computers, but could also apply for laptops if you have an external keyboard and mouse. The outcome is to have the top of your monitor almost aligned with your vision, which would reduce the tension and strain on your neck from being bent to help you gaze at your screen.
This advice doesn’t replace the need of reducing your sitting time and taking movement breaks every 1-1.5 hours of sitting, but it could be of great use if you feel stiff and uncomfortable from bending your neck for prolonged time while working.
Replacing foot rests
Another less common ergonomic use of paper reams would be to replace foot rests. This is more beneficial for shorter individuals or those working at relatively higher desks. Standard desk height are 71-75cm high, which could prevent shorter individuals from being able to rest their feet completely flat on the floor. Instead of purchasing a foot rest, you could simply place a ream or two on the floor and rest your feet on them. While not completely relaxing or a long term fix, this practice is still better than being forced to sit your entire working time on your toes. The idea here rotates around adopting a problem solving mindset with the tools you have, rather than feeling helpless while not taking initiative to improve your work environment and design.
Again, we have to restate that this practice does not replace the need to take movement breaks and reduce prolonged sitting. Being physically active will always be the most efficient and proactive method of improving your physical health, at least according to the culmination of all scientific evidence up-to-date.
What is really the best ergonomic tool?
Paper reams represent more than an ergonomic tool; they represent a mindset of you taking control over your health at work and challenge the status quo of being passive and helpless toward your physical health. We could say that the best ergonomic tool is not paper reams or any other physical material, but your mindset and acquired knowledge of how to improve your physical health. We have built in the past the ultimate ergonomic workstation for almost half the price of an ergonomic chair (here), but we always emphasize the importance of knowledge and being proactive in order to avoid preventable injuries from work.
Your career is supposed to be a boost to your life and wellbeing, not a drain to your health. Taking control over your health at work is a must in order to work well and prosper.