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Tag Archives: office ergonomics
Let's face the facts, work typically takes up the majority of most people's days with some of us spending up to 12 hours a day in a seated position.
Whether you work 4 hours a day seated or 10, chances are you have experienced some form of discomfort while working. While sometimes it can be expensive to relieve work related injuries pertaining to back pain as most of the time this can only be remedied with the use of an ergonomic office chair, leg discomfort is an easier and less costly problem to fix.
Do you ever feel your legs start to feel uncomfortable while sitting in your office chair? Maybe they start to feel heavy or maybe you begin to experience the irritating feeling of your legs falling asleep. This pain can eventually turn to numbness and move into your thighs creating a distracting and uncomfortable work environment. Luckily most leg related pain experienced on the job can be easily relieved by simply adjusting your current office chair.
Leg pain can be attributed to a number of different factors related to your office chair, which is why it is important to determine which pertains to your circumstances. The first common culprit may be that your chair is not adjusted at the right height for your legs. This is a common problem that shorter or taller people experience, however it can affect anyone who does not have their chair height adjusted properly. You should be able to keep your feet firmly placed on the ground or on a foot rest, with your knees bent at a 90° angle. If your chair can not be properly adjusted to you, consider looking for a petite office chair if you are shorter or a big and tall office chair if you are taller. These speciality chairs are specifically designed for users that do not fit the typical office chair mold. High quality and more ergonomic manufacturers will offer alternative size gas lifts allowing users who find that a standard gas lift is not advisable for them to obtain the correct seat height setting.
In order to determine the seat height needed for you to sit comfortably without experiencing leg pain you will need to take a few simple measurements. First, measure from the floor to the inside of your knee joint without shoes on. Once you have this measurement, check to see if your chair will adjust a little up or down from this measurement, measuring from the floor to the top of the seat. If your chair is capable of reaching this height, then you should be able to find your ideal setting. If your chair is too short or too tall, you may want to consider purchasing a different office chair that will allow for this height adjustment.
After adjusting your seat height, if you still find that the pain persists other culprits could be an inadequate seat depth or poor quality foam on the seat cushion. The depth of the seat is crucial as this determines how much coverage your thighs will receive when sitting. A chair with a seat depth that is too short will not provide the support needed to sit comfortably for hours on end. If a seat depth is too long, it can cut off the circulation to your legs and jut into the back of your knee caps. You also may find yourself scooting forward and sitting in an unnatural position which will lead to back pain. Unfortunately, if your seat depth is not where you need it to be and you do not have a seat slider to pull out your seat if a longer depth is needed, your only option may be to purchase a new office chair. The same can be said for a cheap office chair that's seat foam has been flattened or deteriorated from use.
If you find you are in the market for a new chair, make sure to take the proper measurements as aforementioned to ensure that your chair will meet your needs. Most online retailers provide all the information needed to ensure that you choose the correct chair including the chair's seat depth and seat height range. If you can not locate this information, be sure to ask a customer service representative prior to ordering. When trying to determine the quality of a chair's seat foam, a good place to start looking is at the manufacturer's warranty. Most high quality manufacturers will have at least a 5 year warranty on their chair's seat foam. And above all else, be certain not to sit in a chair that is fixed in height such as a dining room chair or meeting chair as not only will you experience leg pain but you may experience back pain as well.
View SitBetter.com's large collection of ergonomic office chairs.
So you are on a quest to find the ultimate ergonomic office chair, one that is going to keep you sitting comfortably throughout the day while keeping those unnecessary aches and pains away. Does such a chair even exist? Your first thought might be to get in your car and drive to the nearest Staples to find your new ergonomic chair, but then you remember that they only carry cheap office chairs that are not designed for all day sitting. Your next thought then may be to visit an online office chair retailer, but you are not sure where to even begin looking with the wide selection of chairs to choose from. If you are looking for the one universal ergonomic office chair that works for everyone, think again, because such a chair does not exist. To find the ultimate ergonomic office chair for yourself, you need to first figure out what is going to work best for your body and your needs rather than purchasing a chair just because everyone else has it or you have heard it is popular.
The first step towards finding your ultimate ergonomic office chair is to figure out the dimensions needed to accommodate your body size. First, determine the seat depth(length of the seat) that will be required for your new chair. This is a crucial step because a chair that is too long will put pressure on the back of your knees and a chair that is too short may not fully support your legs. A good way to determine your ideal seat depth is to turn towards your current office chair; if your current seat depth already works for you then make sure your new chair will have the same seat measurements. If it is too long, look for a chair with a smaller seat depth and vice versa if your chair's seat is too short. If you prefer a softer sit while working look for a chair that offers seat foam upgrades such as a gel seat or triple density foam otherwise some chairs come standard with an extra thick seat.
Next you will need to figure out the seat height range necessary for you to be able to keep your feet flat on the floor while working(or on a foot rest) and work with your height. You will also need to take into consideration the height of your desk to ensure your chair will fit underneath your desk if needed, especially if you would like a chair with armrests. Most standard desks are 29" measured from the floor to the top of the desk, however some have higher workstations or adjustable desks that can be lowered and raised if needed. If you are a shorter individual a standard cylinder that comes with most office chairs may be too tall for you causing your legs to be bent at an awkward angle. The same can be said for taller individuals who need a longer cylinder and higher seat height adjustment range. Certain specialty ergonomic office chairs offer different cylinder size options to accommodate individuals of any height from children 4' tall to adults that are 6'8".
Having the right back height for your office chair can be of particular importance for those who suffer from back pain and even for those who want to avoid back pain. A good way to determine the back height that will be needed for your chair is to look at your current office chair. If you currently suffer from upper back you will want to look for a chair that's back will come up high enough to support your shoulder blades. Have a friend measure your back in its entirety from the top of the seat on your current office chair up to your shoulder blades to calculate how tall you will need your back rest to be. If you experience neck pain look for a chair that comes with an adjustable headrest. Again you will need to measure your back to ensure you do not pick a chair that has a back that is too high or too low, otherwise your headrest may end up turning out to be detrimental rather than helpful. Many people suffer from lower back pain from having a chair that does not have proper lumbar support which is why it is crucial to find a chair that offers built-in lumbar support, adjustable lumbar support, or air lumbar support to prevent lower back pain.
The last factor to consider is how adjustable you will need your ultimate ergonomic chair to be. If you work for more 8 or more hours a day, you will likely need a highly adjustable chair that allows you to recline throughout the day with tilt lock and tilt tension control(allows the user to choose the amount of tension needed to recline back in their chair and to lock their chair in the upright position when typing then unlock when recline is desired). If you are a taller or shorter individual, it may be beneficial to have a seat slider adjustment that allows you to determine make your chair's seat depth either longer or shorter. If most of your day is spent hunched over typing it would be beneficial to have a chair with back and seat angle adjustment to allow you to lean your back rest and seat forward while doing extensive typing. A chair with an adjustable back rest can benefit just about anyone if the chair comes with built-in back support, then the individual using the chair can adjust the back to reach their lumbar region rather than having a chair that pre-determines it for you and risking having it not fit your back properly. The level of adjustability need will vary amongst individuals and will require some thinking to decide which adjustments are absolutely necessary and which you may be able to live without.
A new ergonomic chair does not come at a cheap price, which is why you need to do your research and make sure that you know exactly what you need to keep you sitting comfortably. Make sure to look at the chair's warranty, if the chair is warranted for only a few years this is a good indication of how long the chair will last you. Contrarily, if a chair has a ten year or lifetime guarantee this is a good indication that the chair is built to last and withstand tough working conditions. You may need to put a little extra money than you hoped to get your ultimate ergonomic chair but in the long run it will save you from visits to the chiropractor, money spent on having to replace a bad chair, and aches and pains caused by sitting in a poorly designed chairs.
What are ergonomic accessories, and how do we assess their value in an era when the "hot" term in the office is ergonomics? Everyone wants a piece of them, and everyone wants to charge a lot for them, but before you dive headfirst into "ergonomicafying" your office, let's get a deeper understanding of what will and what can work for your work environment.
Ergonomic accessories can be classified into 3 general categories: Monitor Arms, Keyboard Trays, and Footrests. Some mice are included in this conversation, but only a few. Anything else is really an office accessory, including CPU holders, glare filters and task lights. While not disputing the fact that these office accessories are valuable, they are not focused at providing the same benefits to one's body at work like the aforementioned 3 ergonomic categories.
Monitor arms became increasingly popular with the decrease in price of flat screen monitors - at first a tool for the hip, now a tool for comfort. Not only do they allow for more desk tabletop space by freeing up valuable real estate, but the true ergonomic benefit comes in the ability to position the monitor at the right height for the computer's user. Ideally, the top of the monitor should be level to users line of sight - this dissuades slouching or leaning to read the screen. If you use two monitors, a dual monitor arm may be employed, and the second monitor should be aligned an arms length in front of you and to the right of the main monitor. If you have a laptop, you can still use a monitor arm - you'll just need a monitor. By using a laptop tray, you can use your laptop monitor effectively without using a monitor arm.
What does "not slouching" do? Basically, your mother was right. (Funny how we always hear that as we grow older). The monitor arm prevents slouching, which means you are going to be in the optimal sitting position most of your work hours. Your back is going to be where it should be - leaning against the backrest. Why is leaning against the backrest good, aside from feeling good? Let's look at the shape of the chair to the shape of your spine. Notice the S shape of your spine and how it rests against the S shaped backrest? Most ergonomic chairs will have such a shaped backrest, so leaning all the way back allows your back to appropriately meet the backrest.
Keyboard trays also encourage proper ergonomics by keeping your arms at an even level. This posture of your arms will reduce the strain on the wrists that is commonly associated with constant and repetitive typing. Keyboard Trays are becoming more popular and are usually a more commonly bought accessory - installation requires only a few screws and the benefits are immediate. There are many different types of keyboard trays - they all pretty much function the sames so quality is where the price differences arise.
So getting a keyboard tray is effective in relieving wrist related stress while typing, but like the monitor arm, it has a practical use as well - it frees up valuable desk space. While the paperless office has been attempted, lets face it, paper will always be around. Might as well have more room to spread your clutter!
You may be one of the many people that employ a laptop. As I write this from a laptop, I can tell you that having a laptop is no excuse to eschew ergonomics. There are utilities available to take advantage of a keyboard tray and monitor arm with a laptop, such as this nifty Laptop Docking Station (which is the one I use, by the way):
Lastly, the ergonomic footrests. What is the benefit of that? None if you don't use it right. (Like anything). An ergonomic footrests is generally made for two purposes - one, to give users a place to rest their feet on high chairs or seating areas or two, as an accessory to encourage movement of the feet while sitting. This constant motion won't burn many calories, but it will promote bloodflow, which in turn reduces fatigue. And that's always nice. They even have some with massage balls - so you can get a nice massage in the workplace, provided your feet don't, well, smell.
The idea behind ergonomic accessories is to add overall comfort to the user's workplace atmosphere, and that is a goal that is not to be overlooked nor understated. The modern work lifestyle has evolved to the point where these items are not a luxury anymore- with people spending more and more time on a computer and on the Internet these days, being comfortable for a prolonged period of time is critical to overall well being.
Just think of how many hours a day you'd spend working in front of your computer, slouching forward and trying to make sense of the small text on the screen. (Make the font bigger, if you keep squinting!) A good monitor arm/keyboard tray/footrest combo will quickly and, if chosen right, inexpensively make your or your employees work days more efficient and better over the long run. All of the accessories sold at Sitbetter are quality items - nothing that will fail within a week or even a year, and if it does, it is a good thing you bought it here, because we have your back. It's ok to drink our ergonomic kool-aid - we do.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, ergonomics is defined as: the applied science of equipment design used for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort.
More simply put, the concept of ergonomics can improve your health and keep you feeling better at work by avoiding neck and back injuries and other common office hazards such as carpel tunnel syndrome.
You can change the way you feel during the workday by making your workstation ergonomically correct. Sitting on an ergonomically safe office chair and placing your computer monitor at eye level to prevent eye strain and neck damage can make all the difference in how you feel after spending long hours at your desk.
Along with a safer and much more comfortable workspace, an ergonomically correct office provides function and can also add style to the workplace. Ergonomic chairs are available in a wide variety of sizes and finishes. Manufacturers including Herman Miller, Steelcase, Boss Office, OMF, and Humanscale offer chairs that are engineered with adjustable height and adequate lumbar support to help users maintain a neutral posture and avoid too much stress being placed on the spine.
Making sure your office is set up properly to fit the individual is also key to preventing unnecessary injury. The phone and other frequently used office equipment should be placed within easy reach. The keyboard and mouse should lie flat on the desk to avoid carpel tunnel syndrome. Office chairs also need to be set to accommodate personal proportions.
Here are some tips to setting up an ergonomic chair correctly:
1. Make sure to use a chair with casters and a 5-point base for easy movement and minimal tipping
2. Adjust the chair height to a level that allows your feet to be flat on the floor and thighs parallel to the ground, keeping your knees at a 90 degree angle
3. Measure the chair depth so that the back of your knees are 2 inches from the end of the seatpan
4. Align the backrest to press comfortably against your back and follow the natural curves of your spine
5. Set the armrest in vertical alignment so that your elbows for a 90 degree angle when your hands rest on the keyboard
Went to an ergonomic seminar this past Friday. The speaker was Professional Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics program at Cornell University. It was amazing all the information he was able to give in the space of two hours!
Let's see, where can I start....
Offices are chaotic!
Think about it, how is your desk laid out? Are all of your most-used items right there where you can access them quickly and easily?
Starting with your keyboard tray, is it right in front of you, down close to your legs where you don't have to raise your arms to the level of the desk? If you're doing the latter, you're putting strain on your upper arms, shoulders and back. Center the keyboard on the 'H' key, not on the center of the keyboard.
Where is your mouse, down with the keyboard, level with it?
With both the keyboard and mouse, try to put them both at a 15 degree negative slope (that's sloping away from the body). That's going to put the wrist at the optimal position to reduce strain on the wrist's metacarpal area.
How about your monitor? Are you finding yourself leaning forward simply to see what's on the screen? A good rule of thumb is to extend your arm, the fingers pointing to a spot right in front of your eyes, the monitor should be touching about 2 inches down right in the middle. Tilt the monitor slightly away from you. To keep the eye's from focusing too much in one spot, make sure that every 20 minutes you look away from the monitor for 20 seconds at a spot at least 20 feet away.
Keep in mind the area around you ought to be just how your car is set up. The modern car is set up far more ergonomically than most modern offices. Think about it, your steering wheel is right there where it's an easy reach, all the knobs and levers are easily reached, the dashboard is right below the window, easily glanced at so your attention is not distracted from the road too much. Get your office set-up the same way, so you can easily focus on the task at hand and you're not straining much on reaching nor sitting in awkward positions.
Make the area flexible, changeable by the user, this provides an environment the worker feels they can adapt it better to make it more comfortable for themselves. They might not take advantage of this adaptability, but psychologically, they will feel far more secure and at ease knowing they can do so.
This is only a small portion of what was discussed on Friday, and I'll go over more in more blogs, all of it was interesting and informative.