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
Whether you’re in need of an office chair for the day job or for your home office, it’s a significant decision. Not only will that chair represent a serious investment of cash, but it needs to provide the support and comfort that you need whether you’ll be sitting down for an hour or spending the entire day in its embrace. Making an informed buying decision is very important, and the following features should come into play in that decision. The right chair will keep you happy and healthy, but the wrong chair can actually lead to serious health conditions, as noted by SpineHealth.
Back Height and Style
A quick look at the various chairs on the market will show you a plethora of back heights and styles. Do you need a chair with a tall back? Do you need a mid-back chair? Is it better to get a chair with a built-in headrest on the back? The back of the chair is important, but you should focus more on a few key areas than just height. Lumbar support in the lower chair back is the most important consideration.
Good support here can make a significant difference in reducing aches and pains, and even in developing spinal disorders. The height of the back should be enough to accommodate your usual sitting position (leaning into the back, for instance), but lumbar support is more important.
The style of the chair’s back is also important. It should conform to (and encourage) the natural curvature of your spine. If the back of the chair is straight, or if it curves in an unnatural way, it’s best to avoid it.
Seat Material and Padding
You’ll find office chairs with all types of seat coverings, from leather to mesh and everything in between. There are models with standard foam padding, and those with memory foam. Choose an office chair with enough padding and support that you’ll be comfortable for the duration. If you will spend a significant amount of time in the chair each day (eight hours or more), opt for thicker memory foam. Mesh can also be comfortable, and the breathability can keep you cooler while seated.
The height of your chair is another very important consideration. It should be adjustable, and you should be able to move the height to a position where your feet sit flat on the floor. If your feet are elevated (or hanging), you’ll cut off blood flow to your lower legs and feet. This can lead to muscle pain, enlarged veins, fatigue and other problems. You will need to match the height of your chair to the height of your desk, though. If you’re not able to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your arms even with the desk’s height, you should consider a different desk.
Each of the areas mentioned above should be considered before investing in any office chair. The right chair can make an enormous difference in comfort, as well as health.
Whether you work from home fulltime or you just need an office where you can take care of household paperwork, bills and keep your records, setting it up the right way is important. Ergonomics are generally thought of as being a workplace consideration, but that’s far from the truth. Any office space should be set up ergonomically, and anyone using an office area will find that doing things the right way can protect them from serious harm. Here’s what you need to know before you start.
Plan Your Space Effectively
Whether you’re setting up a home office in a separate room or you’re making use of your living or sitting room area for an impromptu office, you need to plan the space effectively. Part of your considerations here should be to ensure that traffic can flow through effectively. Obviously, this is more important in an office that will share space with other uses, but even an office set up in its own room needs to maximize space.
Light is a very important consideration for any office environment. Ideally, you’ll set up your office in an area with plenty of natural light. Set your desk so that sunlight comes in behind the computer monitor, though. Setting it up so that the monitor actually faces a window will force you to fight a glare, leading to eyestrain. If your office area doesn’t have any windows, make sure you invest in good lighting. Several lamps should be used to provide illumination even in an office where you’ll be primarily working with a computer (with a lighted monitor).
Avoid the temptation to buy a cheap office chair. While a good chair will set you back $100 or more, it’s important that you invest in a quality chair with an ergonomic design. Look for an office chair with good padding in the seat, adjustable armrests, adjustable seat height and good lumbar support. The chair should allow you to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your arms at the same level as the desk. If you cannot keep your feet flat on the floor, invest in a footrest or opt for a shorter desk (or a desk with an adjustable height work surface).
When setting up your computer workstation, it’s vital that you have the right amount of space and the right alignment. The monitor should be between 20 and 36 inches from your face, and it should be slightly below eye level when you’re seated in the chair. Your keyboard and mouse should be positioned just under your hand level (with a negative tilt), and if you’re using a keyboard drawer, it should be large enough for both the mouse and the keyboard.
These simple tips will help ensure that you’re able to set up a home office that keeps you comfortable and prevents serious injuries over time. As far as décor and style go, feel free to go nuts.
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.
You already have an ergonomic set up at your work office where you spend the majority of your time, so do you really need to have your home office ergonomically equipped too? Most would probably speculate no, especially for those that spend little time in their home office except for the occasional few hours after work or on the weekend. Outfitting your home office with proper ergonomic equipment is just as important as your work set up at your job, particularly for those who work from home. When you are at work, you may have little say in regards to which office chair you get to use and what office furniture gets purchased. However, at your house, you are the boss of your office furniture, and therefor get the freedom to determine exactly what you want and need in your home office. With this freedom, you can ultimately decide what you want and need in order to make working at home a pleasant and pain-free experience.
- ergonomic office chair that is fully adjustable to meet your body’s needs and keep you sitting pain-free. The Office Chair – Perhaps the most critical piece of office furniture in any work environment is an office chair; the most used piece of furniture that can greatly contribute to your overall comfort. If you only use your home office chair for a few hours a day, you will want to make sure that your chair is comfortable and has at least a little bit of adjustability. Ideally you will want a chair that has seat height adjustment, reclining capabilities(typically known as tilt lock and tilt control), and some level of lumbar support for your lower back. If you work from home or use your home office chair for more than a few hours a day, you will want an
- keyboard tray is a beneficial ergonomic accessory useful in any office environment where hours of typing at a desk is required, whether you are at work or at home. The Keyboard – Ever experience aches and pains in your wrists or forearms while typing? This is the result of a poorly positioned keyboard and can lead to serious health injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome if not addressed. Your computer’s keyboard should not be placed on top of your desk as this will cause strain to your wrists. It is best to have a keyboard tray installed underneath your desk as this allows for the most natural typing position with your shoulders rested and arms in a comfortable position. A
- monitor arm which allows for quick and easy adjustment. Most monitor arms are designed to fit any monitor of any size and come with an easy to install clamp or mount that does not cause any damage to your desk. If you use a laptop in your home office, consider purchasing a laptop dock to avoid neck pain from tilting your head down to read your computer screen. The Computer Monitor - Your computer monitor should be properly adjusted so that the top of the monitor is at eye level or slightly below. You should not have to look up at the monitor because this will put strain on your neck and upper back. An easy way to properly position your computer monitor with minimal effort is with a
- footrest is a necessary addition for any office where your feet can not be firmly placed on the floor when sitting in your office chair. This may be the case if your desk height is higher than normal or if you are a shorter individual whose chair can not be adjusted low enough. A footrest is also a nice office accessory to have if you want to rest your feet or have something to prop them up on when reclining in your chair. While you may not find a footrest in every office you enter, it is a nice addition to have if you need a break from keeping your feet flat on the floor, especially if you have a movable footrest that encourages movement of the legs to help avoid cramping or stiffness. The Footrest – A
- task light should be placed on your desk close to your computer monitor so that you have proper lighting when looking at your computer screen. Task lights are a relatively inexpensive investment and are an important accessory to have in home offices where the lighting usually is not as adequate as it should be. Task Light – More often than not, the lights in our houses are not adequate for reading especially for long periods of time. Bad lighting can cause eye strain and an uncomfortable work atmosphere. Just as you would have a reading light for your books, a task light is a great office accessory to invest in when working at home. Your
Setting up an ergonomic home office requires minimal effort and time, however it can sometimes be more of an investment than one would hope for. The benefits you will receive from having an ergonomic home office will greatly outweigh the costs by saving you from unnecessary medical ailments that can occur from purchasing cheap office furniture or trying to cut corners in order to save money. Your overall health can be affected from having an improper work set up and can lead to serious medical issues down the road. Your home is where you feel most comfortably so your home office should not be any different.
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