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Ergonomics – it’s become an immensely important consideration for both individuals and employers. Even UCLA has started offering ergonomics guides and information for students, teachers and others. Whether you’re an office worker or an employer, it’s important that you understand the key concepts in workplace ergonomics in order to prevent injury, maximize productivity and reduce ergonomic injury-related lost time from the job.
Reducing Strain and Stress on Key Body Parts
The entire point of ergonomics is to position office equipment and to support the body in such a way that it reduces strain on key body parts. These include the following:
- Upper and lower back
- Thighs and legs
Key Ergonomic-Related Injuries
33% of all workplace injuries involve musculoskeletal injuries generally caused by poor workplace ergonomics. These injuries cause a significant amount of lost time at work, which impacts both the employer and the employee. Some of the conditions caused by not implementing the correct ergonomic plan can include carpal tunnel, eye strain/headaches, tendinopathy, bursitis and many others.
Key Concepts to Understand
There are several different concepts at play in workplace ergonomics, including posture, correct workstation setup and more. These include the following:
- Neutral Neck Position – Your workstation, desk and office chair should allow you to maintain a neutral neck position. A computer monitor should be at least 20 inches away from your body, and it should be directly in front of and slightly below your eye level.
- Spine Support – Sitting for long hours puts serious stress on your spine and back/shoulder muscles. To correctly support your spine, you need to sit with your feet flat on the floor, and you should have an office chair that provides good lumbar support (either adjustable or with extra padding in the lumbar region). Armrests should be included with the office chair, and they should be adjustable to eliminate shoulder strain.
- Arm and Hand Positioning – The position you’re forced to hold your arms and hands in when seated at your computer can put additional strain on your body. When seated and using the keyboard, your elbows should be at 100 to 110 degrees (open). The keyboard should have a negative tilt so you can keep a neutral position in your hands and wrists. Keyboard trays should be wide enough for both the keyboard and the mouse, so you can use them without raising your arm to another position.
Breaks, Stretching and Exercising
It might sound counterintuitive, but office workers should engage in regular stretching and exercising while on the job. This helps to eliminate stress and strain, and enhances blood flow, which can increase comfort as well as productivity. Regular breaks are also important to help prevent workplace injuries.
- For every 20 minutes of typing, you should take a 20-second break
- For every 20 minutes of typing, you should look away and focus on the middle distance for 20 seconds
- Every hour, you should get up and walk around the office or take a stroll to the break room
- Every hour, stretch your legs, arms, shoulders and wrists to enhance blood flow
These tips and key concepts will help enhance workplace productivity, but also reduce the chance of injury for office workers
For most of us, our office workspace is what it is. You deal with the desk, chair, office layout/cubicle space and computer workstation that you were given. However, even those of us not allowed to choose our own chairs and desks can reconstruct our office space to enhance ergonomics. If you’re not familiar with the concept, ergonomics is the science of applied design to protect the human body, prevent strain and stress on joints and muscles, while maximizing productivity. The CDC highlights numerous serious health disorders stemming from poor workplace ergonomics, but you can take matters into your own hands and reconstruct that space to protect yourself.
These days, most of us spend the majority of our time on the computer while at work. This means that your computer system’s setup and layout are of paramount importance in terms of ergonomics. You need to be most concerned with two elements here:
The computer monitor should be at or just below eye level, and it should be angled so that you can see the screen clearly despite the glare of those ubiquitous fluorescents overhead. If you have to squint, hunch, tilt your head or otherwise adjust your body to see the screen clearly, it’s not set up correctly.
The primary means of interaction between humans and computers is through the keyboard and mouse. Make sure that the keyboard is at or just below the level of your arms when in a seated position. Have a wrist rest in front of the keyboard to support your wrists. The mouse should be located on the same level as the keyboard and usable without any unnecessary twisting or readjusting of your body.
You might not think a footrest is an appropriate piece of office furniture, but it is. Adding a footrest under your desk can help decrease stress and strain on your legs, knees and hips, and it can also help enhance blood flow. Not all workplaces will happily let you add a footrest to your office, but it should be considered to help protect you.
All of your frequently used items should be kept within easy reach of your office chair. Ideally, you’ll have a document holder next to your monitor, so you can reach it while keeping your elbows near your sides. This also applies to your phone. As a note, if you spend a considerable amount of time on the phone during the day, consider investing in a good headset, rather than using the uncomfortable handset. This will prevent you from trying to type and talk or listen at the same time while crunching your head to your shoulder (to hold the handset in place). A headset can make an enormous difference in your comfort and alleviate phone call-related neck, shoulder and back pain.
Follow these tips and reconstruct your office workspace for better comfort and ergonomics. Your body will thank you.
When you have to sit for hours on end in an office chair, the most important aspect is that the chair is comfortable and good for your health. However, not all office chairs are made to fit all types of people. If you are taller or bigger boned than the average person, you should not have to sacrifice your comfort just to do your job at a desk. Sitting at a desk can be particularly uncomfortable for taller individuals. Their legs might bend in a strange fashion in the wrong chair. Those who are bigger might experience back pain due to a lack of support from a standard chair. In order to find a chair to suit your needs, you have to shop for chairs with certain features and adjustments made especially for those who are big or tall.
If you are bigger and taller, you know that most office chairs are designed for a much shorter person. Chairs that don’t adjust height-wise can’t provide the user with the comfort that they need. Your office chair should be fully adjustable so that you don’t have to crouch down. Feet should rest flat on the floor and the lower legs should be straight and not bent. This allows for increased blood circulation. Every big and tall office chair should have a quick and easy way to adjust the height of the chair relative to the floor.
Each chair has a certain weight capacity. Standard office chairs can be quite limited in the weight that they can hold. You need to look for chairs that hold enough weight. These products can handle anywhere from 300 to 500 pounds. In order to handle extra weight, the chair might have a larger base and a stronger mechanism.
Seat Width and Sliders
One of the most common complaints about standard office chairs is that the seat is not wide enough for those who are big and tall. If you require an office chair that is taller and larger than the average size, you need to look for a chair with a greater seat width. This will lend additional comfort and help support your thighs. Chairs with wider seats will be easy to find if you pay attention to the seat dimensions. Many office chairs that are designed for those who are big and tall also include a seat slider. This feature allows the user to create more length in their chair seat. This is a particularly useful feature in an office chair for tall people. In addition to the seat slider feature and a wider seat, you should also notice the cushioning of the seat. It should provide enough comfort and support for those long days behind the desk.
Many big and tall office chairs come with a tilt tension feature. As not everyone is the same weight, height and strength, you need a chair that can cater to diverse users. The tilt tension feature makes it possible to control the rate and ease with which the chair reclines. This feature is important, as it allows the chair to adjust to different weights and strengths.
One of the most important features of any chair that you sit in for hours on end is back support. If a chair doesn’t support your back, you could experience headaches, neck and shoulder pain and pain in the lower back. For those who are taller and bigger, short backrests do not lend the proper support. You need to find a chair that has a high backrest. This feature will offer the proper lumbar support.
It’s easy to assume a chair expert understands furniture much better than they understand the spine, but an expert on office chairs with ergonomic features can actually te
ach you a lot about your back and the support you need to keep it in good shape. If you work in an office, you inevitably spend a lot of time sitting down, and that can put a great deal of strain on your back and, subsequently, on the rest of your entire body. This is why experts have spent years developing furniture that encourage better posture and provide specific support for the lower back.
So, if you want to learn more about your ergonomic needs, ask an expert to explain the following five facts further.
Adjustable Height is Best
An adjustable seating option is always the best way to go, because everyone has different requirements when it comes to the height of where they sit. Once the seat is adjusted, your feet should sit flatly on the floor. Also, your back should be straight, and your shoulders should be level when your arms are on the armrest. Make sure the chair you choose comes with a pneumatic adjuster that allows you to shift the height; typically a height adjustment range of 16 to 21 inches from the floor to the top of the seat is suitable for most users. If you are shorter or taller than average, you may need to look for an option that is designed specifically for your needs, however this height range should work for most people.
Determine Seat Depth and Width
Where you sit in the chair also makes a big difference in your comfort and overall spinal health, not to mention workplace productivity and job satisfaction. When sitting down, you should feel completely supported by the seat. Most people will be comfortable with a width between 17 and 20 inches, but if you have an unusual body shape, make sure to consult with an expert before making a purchase. At the end of the day, you are not going to be comfortable unless you are able to sit with your back against the rest and with a few inches between the back of your knees and the edge of the chair. A seat that allows you to adjust the angle forward is also a must for intensive task purposes.
Consider the Backrest
It’s also imperative to consider the measurements and quality of the backrest when purchasing office chairs. In order to be ergonomically correct, the backrest should measure between 13 and 19 inches high with enough support to conform to your spine’s natural curvature. If you have lower back issues, it is especially important that you consult with a chair expert about this issue. The backrest should be particularly supportive of your lumbar region. Also, it should be height adjustable and/or have an air lumbar support so that you can properly fit the chair to the shape of your back and determine the amount of support needed in your lumbar region.
The seat and backrest material of your office chair should be comfortable. For most, standard seat foam will be comfortable enough for all day sitting. For those that need firmer or softer support, look for chairs that offer memory foam or triple density foam. Mesh seating is advisable for those that want to have a more breathable sitting experience, which can be advantageous in warmer climates. Having a comfortable seat can make all the difference on a long workday.
Last, but Not Least, Look Into Lumbar Support
Any good chair expert will probably tell you that lumbar support is the most important aspect of any ergonomic office chair. If you don’t have proper lumbar support, you will inevitably start slouching, and over time, this can put a great deal of strain on the lower spine, eventually flattening its natural curvature. So, make sure your chair is adjustable, and consult an expert about your unique ergonomic needs.
If you have any doubts about an office chair prior to purchasing, especially when it involves whether it will be a good fit for you and your needs, it is best to consult with an expert prior to purchasing. They can help you make an informed decision and will make you feel more comfortable with the purchase, especially if it is for a more expensive ergonomic office chair. For help finding the perfect chair for you, fill out SitBetter's chair expert form by clicking here and a chair expert will recommend you some options within 1-2 business day.
There comes a time when every office needs to update their current office chairs for newer models. Whether your old models are breaking down, or your company simply wants to add a fresh look to the office, new office chairs are purchased for a number of reasons. The purchaser must keep certain things in mind when determining which office chairs will be best suited for their staff such as ergonomics, adjustments, pre-existing medical issues, and if any employees have special needs. While this may seem like a tedious and arduous to complete, it can turn more fun when it comes to selecting the fabric for the chair. Cheaper office chairs will have a small number of fabrics to choose between, however high quality ergonomic chairs often come with the option to select from a variety of higher grade fabrics.
Most people ask, are high grade fabrics actually better than the standard fabric that comes on an office chair? The answer to this is yes.
Perhaps the greatest benefit that can be achieved from selecting a higher grade fabric is the certainty that it will uphold much longer than a standard fabric. It is easy to forget how often we slide in and out of our chairs on a daily basis, and each time this occurs your clothing rubs against the fabric which causes the fabric to wear over time. While this is often not advertised, fabrics are rated for abrasion resistance, light-fastness, and colorfastness. Abrasion is the ability of a fabric to withstand damage from wear and rubbing whereas colorfastness refers to rubbing off of color from the fabric onto clothing, hands or other materials and can occur under wet or dry conditions. Light fastness is the degree to which fabric will retain its color when exposed to light. The higher the fabric grade, the more apt it is to avoid damage from light, abrasion, and colors running and the more suitable it will be for ensuring the chairs last for years to come. Higher grade fabrics also come with protective finish as well as backing, making them even more durable.
The fabric chosen to upholster a chair is the most important part of the chairs appearance and plays an important part in its visual appeal. After all, the upholstery is about 80% of the overall chair so it is essential to choose your fabric color wisely. Standard grade one fabrics are typically plain and come in monotonous shades that are the most common among business work places such as black, navy, gray, and burgundy. Higher grade fabrics usually are available in a variety of different colors and patterns that stray away from traditional styling. They also come in a variety of materials such as vinyl, faux leather, leather, antimicrobial vinyl, silica, and other high quality fabric upholstery materials.
With grade 1 fabric, you have a very limited selection of fabrics to choose from and sometimes the colors that are available will not blend in with your pre-existing office furniture. With the vast array of high grade fabrics available, you are able to select from more choices that may correspond better with your other furniture or the overall color scheme of your business.
A higher fabric grade can also mean that the overall chair will be more comfortable. This type of fabric is able to stretch more than standard fabric and therefor provides a softer sit. The fabric material is also usually softer to touch and feels more comfortable when you are seated because of this.
Whether you are looking for fabric that will last over time, a good-looking office chair, additional comfort, or simply to match the color of your other furniture higher grade fabrics are truly better.
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