Maximize Workplace Comfort with Correct Ergonomics
The goal of ergonomics is to design a workplace environment that allows you to do your job in the most natural position. Advantages include maximizing work efficiency, preventing repetitive injuries, and reducing sick leave. Simple changes in your work environment can allow you to support your body in a more neutral posture, which will improve your health, comfort and productivity. It will also help you avoid Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSDs) which is a common and painful injury caused when the same task is repeated incorrectly over time. Inflammation and damage of the musculoskeletal structure results.
Here are some of the secrets for ergonomic success.
A simple yet often overlooked suggestion is to ask yourself how your workspace might be improved. What aspects cause discomfort to your body? What movements are repetitive throughout your day?
Everything Within Arms Reach
One common cause of ongoing repetitive motion injuries is reaching to access different tools you need to do your job (phone, stapler, mouse, coffee cup, files, etc.). Having equipment within reach significantly reduces the repetitive motion injuries Ideally your workspace will be organized so that the items you frequently use will be within 18″-22″. Items that are only utilized occasionally can be further away (24″-36″). Mounting a flat screen monitor can help achieve the additional workspace needed and easily adjust to your ideal monitor height and distance. If you are designing a new workspace you may want to consider an adjustable height ergonomic workstation allowing you to be in a relaxed neutral posture with your tasks and necessary tools within comfortable reach.
Appropriate furniture will allow the body to be in the correct position for performing all job functions. The standard desk height of 29-30 inches is actually too high for the majority of people to sit properly. Your ergonomic workstation should fit your particular body and your tasks. Your feet should be fully supported ideally flat on the floor or raised and your hips will be horizontal. If your hips are too high above your knees you will feel discomfort over time in your lower back. To minimize lower back issues you don’t want your feet to be dangling or even resting on the chair base.
If you are unable to replace your workstation consider replacing your desk chair to achieve the ideal height. Another option is to consider an adjustable footrest, which will provide your lower back the necessary support.
It is important to appropriately position your neck, back, legs, arms, and hips to prevent fatigue and discomfort. Furniture should be adjusted to achieve the following:
- Feet totally supported, ideally flat on the ground or on a footrest with thighs horizontal to the floor. When your feet are fully supported your torso is stable and your body can relax.
- Spine straight up and down with lower back supported. To avoid leaning forward, move as close to the desk as possible with your stomach touching the front edge and adjust that chair back to support you.
- Chair armrests removed or set to provide gentle support of the forearms with relaxed shoulders. Raised shoulders hold body tension and round the upper back.
- Hands should be positioned level or slightly below elbows to minimize tension on wrists when keyboarding and the wrists should not be angled up or down. Instead they should be extending straight from your forearms and level with your keyboard. Resting your wrists on the edge of the desk are unhealthy habits leading to MSDS or are indicators that your desk is too high.
- Head level and neck upright will support open chest and relaxed posture.
- Eye height should be at the top of the monitor if wearing bifocals.
- Positioning of the monitor screen is important as well. It should be 18-24 inches away with the top half of the screen at or above eye level if not wearing glasses allowing the neck to be positioned upright. Finally, minimize the glare on the computer screen caused by room lighting and verify that the lighting does not reflect off the work surface inappropriately.
By utilizing these basic steps, adjustable office furniture and ergonomic accessories, you can position your body in correct postures for an efficient, safe and comfortable workday. To your comfort and health!
Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.