When Rachael Ibeling joined the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics this year, she knew she wanted to be proactive about creating a healthy and productive workspace.
After inquiring about a keyboard to better suit her needs, Ibeling, an administrative services coordinator and assistant to the DEO in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, was directed to the Ergonomics Program and participated in the Ergonomic Workstation Assessment and Evaluation process to design an optimal workspace. The evaluation resulted in improvements beyond a new keyboard, including a wireless headset.
"He definitely took a holistic view of my needs and workspace," Ibeling said of Marcus Seaton, director of workers' compensation and UI ergonomics. "The evaluation went well beyond the items I originally asked for."
In 2023, UI Ergonomics has conducted more than 200 workspace evaluations across campus and UI Health Care. Seaton and Tyler Guzowski, a PhD candidate in the College of Public Health, work with nurses, custodians, office workers and more to determine how to optimize their workspace for efficiency, comfort, and productivity.
The goal of ergonomics is to design workstations and spaces to fit individual needs and provide a comfortable environment for maximum productivity and efficiency.
Faculty and staff can request ergonomics evaluations as needed, and it is at the discretion of the employee's department to decide how it manages the program's recommendations. Seaton aims to deliver cost-effective and efficient recommendations that departments can realistically implement.
"An important thing to remember is that when it comes to, especially computer work and repetitive tasks, trauma is oftentimes cumulative," said Seaton, a physical therapist who has been with the UI for 10 years. "While you may recognize that you're doing something improper, but you continue to do it because it doesn't cause you discomfort right now, that doesn't mean it's not taking a toll over time.
"Accumulation of those micro-traumas can eventually lead to discomfort, pain, and then injury, so it's best to address issues now rather than waiting until they become a problem."
Seaton often deals with employees experiencing discomfort related to poor posture, repetitive tasks, and improper use of tools and equipment.
UI Ergonomics recommends incorporating these exercises to improve comfort and posture at work.
When Ibeling experienced a persistent pain in her neck, she worked with the Ergonomics Program to determine the need for a new chair.
"Marcus has taken the time to answer all of my questions," Ibeling said. "He's been very responsive."
For Seaton, the best part of his job is meeting people across campus, like Ibeling, and helping them be more comfortable and productive at work.
"The best part of the job is the ability to get out and around campus and meet all our faculty and staff," Seaton said. "I get to watch people work and do things they enjoy, which in turn is enjoyable for me."