Combating Burnout Through Workplace Ergonomics
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There are several topics that periodically show up on this site more frequently than others, most notably issues with divorce and burnout.
I have a particular interest in physician burnout as I truly felt like I was in its dark grips on more than a few occasions.
Previous posts such as “The Burnout Continuum” and an interview with a burnout expert, the Happy MD (Part I, Part II), showcased some of the dangers of physician burnout as well as some preventative measures that one can take to minimize the risk of burnout.
Scan the internet about this subject and the major topics congregate on typically the standard culprits for physician burnout:
- Loss of autonomy.
- Increasing regulations.
- Electronic Health Record issues.
These issues rightfully belong near the top of every list of physician burnout instigators.
However I may have stumbled upon another, less talked about, factor for physician burnout that can indeed impact your daily work life.
And best of all, it is a lot easier to address and solve than the above burnout factors.
Namely it has to do with workplace ergonomics.
Too often a physician is just happy to have landed a job, especially if they just finished residency, and move into their predecessor’s office.
Rarely does one inherit an office that is perfectly designed for oneself.
But as physicians, who are used to hardships, especially after surviving the gauntlet of medical school and residency, we dismiss these inconveniences and work around them.
This may sometimes require us to contort our bodies in slightly more uncomfortable positions to accomplish our routine tasks.
As a whole, physician types tend to not be the “squeaky wheel” and voice complaint.
Rather it is our bodies that silently voice displeasure at the end of the day.
Early on, when youth and elasticity is on our side, we rebound quite well and carry on.
But as the years take their toll, our body’s ability to snap back to normal diminishes considerably.
My personal experience.
I absolutely love radiology and truly feel like I am a fish in water with this specialty.
It is perfectly suited for me as I am quite visually oriented, love technology, and consider myself well versed in anatomy and pathology.
However one of the major downsides of this specialty is that it leads to quite a sedentary workday.
The majority of my clinical time is spent sitting in my office chair in front of large high definition monitors, scrolling through images and dictating.
The constant use of the mouse and keyboard to scroll and select images has in the past put a major strain on my wrists.
Fortunately I recognized this early on and ordered a wrist gel rest pad to alleviate the impact on these joints.
However I neglected addressing the biggest non-ergonomic culprit in my office for over 13 years, my office chair.
Do not get me wrong, the chair I had was not inexpensive (around $700) and was touted as an ergonomic chair by the manufacturer back in 2005.
And to be honest, in my early 30’s, the chair was more than adequate to get me through the day.
Fast forward almost a decade and a half and it was getting to the point that, by the middle of the day, I was having issues with my lower back.
The Turning Point.
I hate to say it but becoming a blogger exacerbated my lower back issues 10 fold.
Here I was already having a sedentary lifestyle being a radiologist during work hours and now I was coming home or using my leisure time picking up another quite sedentary activity, blogging.
It truly was a double whammy and honestly something that I could not see being sustainable if I ever wanted to be free of lower back pain.
My home office chair was a little more expensive model than my work chair but even so, I still had to buy additional seat gel cushions and lumbar pillows to make it tolerable to blog for any extended period of time.
Fortunately I came across a true game-changing chair that I took a flier on and was rewarded handsomely (and one that I previously reviewed) the Backstrong Chair.
[I am currently finishing up writing this post in my home office sitting in this very chair, approaching 120 minutes and have absolutely no discomfort whatsoever and could go many hours more if I chose to.]
This chair instantly solved my back issues at home.
Unfortunately, however, the vast majority of time I sit down is at work.
Having a great chair at home only served to magnify what was lacking in my work office chair, which I felt I was relegated to for the rest of my career.
Ask And You Shall Receive.
I honestly don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but, after a couple of weeks, I asked my office manager what the policy was for requesting a new chair.
I explained to her that my 13+year chair was no longer comfortable for me and that I was developing a constant ache in my lower back every day.
She said she would put in a request to admin along with my reasoning.
While she was at it, she asked my radiology colleague if he wanted to upgrade his chair as well, which he jumped at the opportunity immediately.
I was thrilled when the requisition was approved, the chairs were ordered and arrived within a week.
It came as no surprise for me, since I already previously experienced it firsthand from home, but all the discomfort at work I was experiencing melted away.
My colleague called me a couple of days later and said he loved the chair as well and felt like it has improved his posture to the point that he maintains it sitting in other chairs.
The one thing that I noticed after a week or so at work in the new chair was that by the end of the day my feelings of irritation/burnout dramatically decreased.
When you are dealing with physical discomfort, no matter how trivial it may seem, it adds up during the day.
Dealing with discomfort apparently took some of my mental bandwidth away and once I got it back, the day was a lot easier to negotiate.
I felt like I was able to focus/concentrate even more, as well as have an improvement in my demeanor.
I implore everyone, physician or not, to truly assess their workspace environment.
Would you have designed it that way if you were allowed to have constructed it from the ground up?
If what you envision is different from reality, are there ways that you can bridge the difference?
If something truly is causing you discomfort, petition the higher ups to make some changes to improve your workflow.
Studies have shown that improved workplace ergonomics improves work productivity and is a more cost effective solution than dealing with the repercussions of a non-ergonomic workplace (medical conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome can be eliminated).
If you find yourself sitting at work the majority of the day, I personally vouch for the Backstrong Chair, which I have partnered up with to offer a $100 off promotion code (use XRAYVSN) and have the following tips:
- The key is to sit back as far as possible in the seat bottom so your bottom rests in the “V” that forms in the seat cradle when tilted.
- I find placing a small object in front of the chair that allows your feet to rest on it while you are tilted back.
- This provides the most comfort as you are not having to use your legs to push down as much to maintain your ideal tilt.
If you are in search of financial help, please consider enlisting the service of any of the sponsors of this blog who I feel are part of the “good guys and gals of finance.”
Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
NOTE: The website XRAYVSN contains affiliate links and thus receives compensation whenever a purchase through these links is made (at no further cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Although these proceeds help keep this site going they do not have any bearing on the reviews of any products I endorse which are from my own honest experiences. Thank you- XRAYVSN