Ergonomics in the Workplace

ergo workspaceMany jobs in our society require people to remain seated for eight or more hours every day. Uninterrupted sitting can be unhealthy and very harmful to the body which was made to move and be active.Here are a few important tips to improve the ergonomics of your workstation.

1.  Sitting

Your chair should be adjusted to a height where your feet can be planted flat on the ground comfortably. The angle of your knees and hips should both be about 90o to reduce stress on the joints and soft tissues.When sitting back in your chair, don’t sit so far back that your knees are compressed against the front of the seat. This can cause poor blood flow and may cause damage to the tissues.Listen to what your parents told you when you were a child and DON’T SLOUCH. Not only can this cause unnecessary stress and compression in the spine, but it can make other necessary functions such as breathing more difficult. Finding a chair with good lumbar support is very important for the overall curve of the lumbar spine. Separate lumbar supports can also be purchased to add on to a chair, or simply rolling up a bath towel to place behind the back can be a good substitution.Try using an exercise ball rather than a chair at your desk. Be sure it is the right size and height to be able to see and type comfortably. The great thing about an exercise ball is that you can perform spinal mobility exercises throughout the day to help keep motion in the hips and spine which may help to decrease pain. Devices such as an Air Disc or Stability Disc are also a good option to add to a chair if an exercise ball is not an option.Don’t forget to get up and MOVE! Motion keeps the spine and other joints of the body healthy. Every 30-45 minutes you should be up and moving around. Even if it’s only in the room or your desk a few times.

2.  Computer Display

Your computer monitor should be placed right at eye level about an arms length away from your face. Depending on the size of the monitor, you may need to move up or down a few inches, and possibly slightly further away. The goal is to not have to look up or look down at the screen to see your work and to avoid unnecessary eye strain. Laptop computers and tablets can be especially difficult to achieve the proper positioning since the screen and keyboard are both attached.One exception to the monitor height may be if bifocals have to be worn. In this case, the monitor should be adjusted to your comfort while avoiding being too high or low to avoid cervical spine strain.It is also important to make sure the computer is directly in front of you. When the monitor is placed off to the side, the soft tissue such as muscles and ligaments in your cervical spine are under increased strain. Be sure to adjust the writing size and colors when typing to make it easier to see. Balancing the brightness and tilt of the screen will also help to reduce strain on the eyes. Brightness of the screen should match that of the room or computer station surroundings.

3.  Input Devices

Keyboard and mouse – height of the keyboard should be just on your lap so that the arms can hang down 90o or more. The shoulders should remain relaxed with the elbows to the sides. Wrists should remain in a neutral position. They should not be angled up or down, and should not be resting on the desk or keyboard. This may lead to stress on the carpal joints and possible compression leading to disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome.The use of keyboard shortcuts or macros can be an asset and cut down on the repetition of typing. It is important to learn the memory of the keyboard so that you do not need to look down when typing. This will help to avoid anterior head carriage and additional stress on the upper back and cervical spine.The mouse should be placed close to the keyboard within easy reach. You should not have to reach up to the desk or over stretch to use the mouse. Try to avoid using your wrist to move the mouse back and forth, the motion should come mostly from the elbow. A small flick of the wrist can be used for moving short distances to help decrease stress to the carpal bones. Lastly, try switching hands with the mouse every now and then. It may take a while to adjust, but it will share the load.These are just a few ideas to help improve ergonomics in the workplace. Many offices have converted to standing workstations. It can often be difficult to adapt to being on your feet all day, but, in the long run, may have a more positive effect on posture and body mechanics.