I am always asked about what types of ergonomic equipment employers can proactively provide to their employees — especially for those who sit at desks all day. Most often, employers ask about swapping out an employee’s desk chair with a stability ball. While these alternative seating options may seem like a quick, easy and inexpensive way to combat a sedentary workday, stability balls aren’t a one-size-fits-all ergonomic solution.
The pros and cons
Stability balls have been introduced to the workforce as a way for people to engage their core muscles and incorporate more movement into their workday. These two features are true: stability balls do allow a person to burn additional calories since he or she is engaging his or her core muscles, and they also help promote enhanced circulation. In addition, for an employee who has had surgery, a stability ball provides a good option for movement, since being seated for hours in a static position can be harmful in terms of pain and recovery.
When determining what types of equipment can help your employees work with optimal productivity, remember that even though stability balls provide some great benefits, they come with a few potential hazards as well.
- Improper desk alignment. Stability balls are inflated to a certain point, and may not be able to match up with the height of an employee’s desk. If a stability ball is too high or too low in relation to the height of a desk, an employee could spend the day working at an odd angle and strain his or her muscles. If continuously misused, this could lead to pain or additional issues down the road.
- Lack of armrests or backrests. Without any upper body support at your desk, there’s a chance an employee could hyperextend his or her back or slouch while conducting daily tasks on a stability ball. Both put an employee’s overall health at risk and could exacerbate any existing pain.
- Safety hazards. It’s easy for an exercise ball to become slightly deflated, which could amplify the odd angle the employee might already be working at. In addition, if the ball completely deflated due to a sudden puncture or an employee slipped while sitting, it could result in a serious injury.
Proceed with caution
There are other dynamic seating options on the market that can help incorporate movement into the workplace, but also may include a seat back and added stability to help eliminate some of the risks noted above. Regardless of any seating option you choose, alternate dynamic seating options can help provide the safety and necessary ergonomic seating posture for employees, but shouldn’t be considered a solution for the entire office.