Ergonomics is a science that deals with arranging and designing an environment so that it can be used safely and easily. You can use ergonomics to prevent injuries through the reduction of mental and physical stress as a result of the way a workstation is arranged. When you focus on the way a workstation is set up as well as the tools that you use, you can greatly reduce your chances of developing a work-related injury. Additionally, the work process including rotation of workers, job organization, job demands, and task variety may need to be evaluated.
When an employee works intensely for long periods of time and doesn’t take breaks, they significantly increase their risk in developing a musculoskeletal injury. When working, make sure you take breaks on a regular basis and incorporate stretching exercises. Every 20 to 40 minutes you should be taking a three to five-minute break or at least changing work tasks.
Improving Your Work Station
Here are some tips to ergonomically improve your workstation:
a. Arrange work so that you can stand/sit comfortably and not put any stress on a specific area of your body. Your neck should be in a neutral position so that you do not have to look up or side to side while working.
b. Purchase one of our ergonomic work desks and practice these daily standing tips
c. Terminate movement from the waist. Keep your workstation and tools within your reach so that you don’t have to lean, twist, or bend at your waist.
d. When and if possible, vary your posture.
e. During your task, take ten to fifteen seconds often. Look away, stand up, and stretch. Taking these short breaks will decrease muscle tension and eyestrain.
f. Get up out of your chair and stretch your body. When sitting, do shoulder shrugs.
Of course, if you do similar tasks at home, be sure that you use these tips as well to reduce the risk of accumulated repetitive motion.
Choose Proper Furniture & Accessories
In order to make improvements to your workstation, you should choose office furniture that you are comfortable with, such as:
1) A desk or work surface that:
a. Is large enough for all the necessary tools arranged in a way that all are easily accessible.
b. Is at the proper height so that your knees/thighs fit comfortably under it.
c. Is not shiny
2) A computer monitor that is:
a. Clear and easy to see without having to look up, to one side, or lean forward.
b. At the proper height- either eye level or 15 degrees below (see our ergonomic monitor arms here)
c. Less than an arm’s length away.
d. Protects against eyestrain (which can result in headaches and vision problems)- glare guards work well for this, as well as plasma screens. some modern laptops and screens have built-in refresh technology and blue light reduction settings.
3) A supportive chair that is:
a. Adjustable so that your feet can rest comfortably. You can put your feet on the floor or on a footrest to reduce back pressure.
b. Supportive of your lower back.
c. Adjustable armrests so that you can use them when you want and move them when they are in the way.
d. Has a padded, breathable surface
e. Rolls on five wheels.
4) A computer keyboard/keyboard tray that:
a. Allows for comfort while typing.
b. Is at a height that allows elbows to be held close to your sides and bent at about a 90-degree angle.
For specific info about how to choose a standing desk, see this post: https://www.zenspacedesks.com.au/how-to-choose-a-standing-desk/
Choosing Computer Accessories
When it comes to keyboards, there are many design variations. Studies have not proven that the alternate designs offer a reduction in stress-related injuries. However, some people do find that they are more comfortable. After all, everyone is different and what works for someone else may or may not work for you.
Most of the time, the keyboard trays and keyboards do have wrist supports to keep your wrist in a neutral position. However, keep in mind that the wrist pads are just for resting- not to be used when you are typing. Still, some people do find them helpful during typing. Try to raise your wrists from the support so that they are in a more neutral position. You may wish to try alternating between raising your wrists and resting them on the supports.
Most of the time, the tilt on your keyboard can be adjusted. Some workers find it comfortable to have the keyboard flat or even slightly tilted down at the top. Experiment with different keyboard angles to find the best fit for you.
You want to be sure that you have a mouse or pointing device that does not require you to move your forearm. Some people find a trackball mouse or even a touch pad is more comfortable than the regular mouse. Additionally, you can find other variations of pointing devices.
If you do a lot of typing, you want to have a document holder that will hold your paper level with your computer monitor so that you’re not having to always refocus when you look from one to the other.
Other Things to Consider
In addition to the desk, there are some other things you want to consider when thinking about ergonomics in the office.
a. The room should be at a comfortable temperature, the area should be relatively quiet, and the lighting should be sufficient- there should be no glare from sunlight, computer screen, or office lights.
b. You should have a speakerphone or telephone headset so that you avoid sitting in an awkward position when typing and trying to talk on the phone at the same time.
c. Any necessary reference manuals should be close to the middle of your workstation so that you can easily access them.
If you have been injured on the job due to faulty ergonomics, it can be helpful to speak with a personal injury or workers’ compensation consultant to find out what you can to do ensure that your claim is heard.