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Get That Monkey Off Your Back With 5 Workplace Ergonomics Tips

| May 12, 2012

Do you find yourself leaving work with headaches, back aches, sore shoulders and neck, or wrist pain? These common complaints are typically attributed to poor ergonomics in the workplace. Ergonomics is the science of blending the workstation with the worker in order to increase health and productivity and decrease work-related musculoskeletal disorders. In this post we will review basic guidelines to correctly setup a workstation in the office environment and alleviate some of those aches and pains.

1.  Pay Attention to Posture

Poor workstation setup and posture lead to pain, dysfunction, and tissue breakdown. Ultimately, this cascading event increases a worker’s number of sick days, decreases productivity, and increases worker compensation costs. To decrease a person’s chance of creating breakdown in the body, proper posture and desk setup are important. A good workstation is one that has an adjustable chair, mouse/keyboard and computer monitor.

2. Adjust Your Chair Setup

When sitting, a person’s bottom needs to be all the way to the back of the chair with their feet resting firmly on the ground and feel they have equal pressure on the balls of their feet. A good chair is one in which the seat depth is adjustable to allow 2–3 fingers from the back of the knees to the front of the chair. The lower back and upper back should be well supported by the back of the chair. Lumbar support is not always adjustable, but if it is, the support needs to be placed in the small of the back.

3.  Keyboard and Mouse

Arms need to be relaxed and resting by the person’s side with elbows between 90–110 degrees. This is also where the keyboard and mouse need to be placed. Wrists and hands need to be in a neutral or slightly flexed position as if you were playing the piano. Typically, the legs of the keyboard do not need to be up as they cause extension of the wrist. Gel pads in front of the keyboard decrease pressure on the carpal tunnel and bring hands into a more neutral position.

4.  Adjust Your Computer Monitor

The computer monitor should be placed at an arm’s distance away, typically 18–20” for standard monitors. The correct height of the monitor should be where your eyes are at the center to top third of the screen with your head looking forward. A simple monitor riser or books can be added if your screen is not adjustable.

5.  Additional Setup Tips

When inputting data, documents need to be placed on a person’s dominant eye side and monitor level. To determine your dominant eye, make a circle with your fingers and visually locate an object in the center with both eyes open. Now, close one eye, open, then close the other eye. Whichever eye was open when the object remained in the center is your dominant eye. Frequent phone use can also lead to dysfunction; utilize a speaker phone or purchase a headset to decrease pain. Laptops are convenient to use during meetings, travel, and telework due to their size and portability; however, laptops are not the best for posture.

Good Posture, Now What?

Now that you are on your way to maintaining good posture, keep in mind it takes about three weeks to get used to any new changes. Mini breaks are needed throughout the day to decrease eye fatigue, prevent physical and mental fatigue, and decrease risk of tissue breakdown.  Every hour, get up, move around, and take a five minute break to stretch or do an exercise.

Remember, posture is not only important when sitting at your desk and working on the computer, but when you perform activities of daily living or extracurricular activities.

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