If you sit at a desk all day, you understand just how much stress it can put on your body. That’s why the word “ergonomics” gets tossed around when discussing an office workspace. But, what is ergonomics? According to OxfordDictionaries.com, it technically means “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment”. However, the word carries the connotation of creating a more comfortable workspace (so that employees work more efficiently). It usually refers to various workplace items, like the office chair, computer monitor, desk, and keyboard as well as addressing the best positions for various parts of the body, like head, neck, eyes, and back.
You can find a lot of information on ergonomics in the workplace online. Though not all of the advice will agree, there are some general rules of thumb that most safe and comfortable working environments follow.
Your office chair is an important piece of ergonomic equipment. The wrong chair can lessen your productivity as well as leave you sore. The right chair can do the opposite. Unfortunately, we can’t all work in places with perfect chairs. However, there are several things you can do to improve whatever chair you might have to use.
Reducing back pain
A common complaint regarding office chairs is back pain. Two simple solutions can help you decrease back pain and increase the ergonomics of your chair: not slouching and lumbar support. Slouching forward in your office chair strains your shoulder and eyes and takes the support away from your back. You should sit with your back in a slight S curve shape, not a half circle. Sitting back in your chair will help with this, and some ergonomic office chairs will do so as well. However, if you find yourself in a support-less chair, consider some DIY lumbar support. You can invest in a lumbar support made specifically to address back pain, which can range from a couple of dollars to a couple dozen, or you can roll up a towel and strap it to your chair.
Having your arm rests at an improper height can increase shoulder tension. It is recommended to (if you can) adjust the length of the arms so that your shoulders are relaxed and elbows bend at a 90 degree angle.
Office Chair height
Your feet should be planted flat on the floor with your thighs parallel to it. Your knees should not be higher than your legs. Remember that it is usually easier to adjust your chair’s height than your desk’s. Try to avoid crossing your legs for a long period of time.
Unfortunately, making your desk ergonomic is not an easy change. Regardless, there are three major ergonomic factors you want to control as much as possible: mouse, keyboard, and monitor placement.
Ergonomic keyboard and mouse
The best placement for your keyboard is to have the “B” key in the center of where you’re sitting. Your keyboard should be placed at a height where your elbows can maintain a 90 degree angle. Your hands should be slightly below your elbows to help keep your wrists from bending. Despite the build of keyboards, it is best if they slope down towards the computer, not the other way around. Also, your mouse should be close to the keyboard so you do not have to twist your body to reach it.
Your eye should naturally fall about 2-3 inches down the monitor. Thankfully, you can place books under it if you need to increase the height. You should also sit about 20 inches away from the monitor to protect your eyes.
In addition to having the proper office equipment, you can also take actions throughout the day to improve your ergonomics. Taking frequent breaks (some recommend once every half an hour, some once every hour) helps reduce muscle and eye strain. You should also try to frequently stretch out your muscles to keep them from getting sore
To protect your eyes, you should glance away from the monitor for about 20 second every 20 minutes. Don’t lean forward or squint to read someone on the screen, as this stresses your neck and eyes. Instead, increase the size of the text’s font or zoom your screen in.
Ergonomics OSHA Training
OSHA requires that workplaces provide proper ergonomic training to workers to avoid strains and other injuries. If any of these topics sound like they would help your workplace, your employees can take a quick OSHA topic training course to brush up on OSHA’s standards regarding ergonomics in the workplace. For more information on taking this training online, see USFOSHA’s Ergonomics Certificate Course page.