According to OSHA, ergonomics is defined as the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population. Effective and successful “fits” assure high productivity, avoidance of illness and injury risks, and increased satisfaction among the workforce.
Experts at UCLA agree, the four key components to think about when it comes to ergonomics at your office work space are your chair; keyboard; monitor, documents and telephone; and pauses and breaks.
- Chair-When choosing a chair, consider your work tasks and body shape and size. While sitting, your spine is most comfortable in “neutral position” which is a slightly reclined sitting position. Your feet should be flat on the floor or footrest so that your knees are equal to or slightly lower than your hips. Tilt the back of the chair to a 100-110 degree reclined angle. Make sure your upper and lower back are supported; use cushions if necessary. There should be 1-2″ space between the front edge of the seat and the back of your knees. Adjust armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed and your elbows are near your side.
- Keyboard-Repetitive and prolonged keyboard and mouse use can lead to muscles aches and discomfort. An articulating keyboard try can provide optimal positioning if it accommodates the mouse, provides leg clearance and has adjustable height and tilt features. The keyboard should be positioned directly in front of you and adjusted so your shoulders are relaxed, your elbows are at 100-110 degrees and your wrists are straight. Tilt your keyboard depending on your sitting position. If you are sitting forward tilt the keyboard away from you. If you are reclined, tilt the keyboard toward you.
- Monitor, Documents and Telephone-To minimize awkward postures, keep the monitor directly in front of your keyboard with the top of it 2-3″ above eye level. Place documents in front between the monitor and keyboard using a copy stand or use a holder adjacent to the monitor. If you use the telephone frequently, use a headset or speaker phone to avoid cradling the handset between your ear and shoulder.
- Pauses and Breaks-Take 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes. Clasping hands behind the back, reaching overhead, circle wrists, and opening and closing fingers are just a few examples of basic stretches. Avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes periodically. Look away from the monitor and focus on something in the distance. Rest you eyes by simply covering them with your palms for 10-15 seconds.
When using laptops, remember that you are at greater risk of injury since the screen and keyboard are attached. Instead of working from the couch or bed, move to a table that is not too high. Be aware to keep your ears over your shoulders and use an external keybpad when possible. If not using an external keypad, place a 3-ring binder under the computer and avoid resting hands on the hard laptop surface.
It’s important to remember, that posture and ergonomics matter regardless of the size or mobility of the electronic device. Your spine, arms and hands are counting on you to keep pain and discomfort at bay.
Traci Vincent, PT, RYT