Working in an ergonomic area is essential to an active and constructive workforce. You work more effectively, feel better and have a clearer state of mind. With office ergonomics, you can set up your workstation so it maintains your body in correct alignment as you go about your regular tasks. Here are 12 ways you can acquire an ergonomic working environment.
1. An adjustable desk. This lets you shift its position in relation to your height, an essential feature when more than one person uses the same desk in an office. The desk should be at a height where your knees and thighs fit comfortably under it. Office ergonomics also suggests that the desk be large enough to accommodate your needs and that items are placed within arm’s length reach. This limits the need of bending or twisting often to access something.
2. An adjustable chair. For those whose job involves a lot of sitting, the chair is an important area in which to achieve office ergonomics. It should have an adjustable back, seat height, arm rests, lumbar support for the back and a padded, breathable seat. If it’s a rolling chair, five wheels are recommended for ease of movement and minimal tipping risk.
3. Proper computer monitor placement. First and foremost, your computer monitor should be adjustable so the top of the screen is at eye level. It should be placed directly in front of you, about an arm’s length away. Glare guards or a plasma screen can help reduce eye strain. To prevent vision problems, a computer screen should be at a 90-degree angle to a window, not in front of or next to it.
4. Adjustable keyboard tray. Computer desks that come equipped with a keyboard tray could cause problems if you are unable to adjust its height for proper positioning. The keyboard tray should also be spacious enough to hold the keyboard and mouse. Wrist supports are also recommended so you can take short breaks from typing and rest your wrists in the proper position.
5. A keyboard with curves. Office ergonomics research has shown that a curved or contoured keyboard helps lower the risk of hand, wrist and shoulder problems. The keyboard should be positioned at a height where your elbows remain close to your sides and bent no more than 90 degrees. If you notice any hand, arm, or neck pain, you might try adjusting the tilt of the keyboard.
6. An ergonomic-friendly mouse. Injuries from repetitive motion caused by using a mouse are common in an office. Replace the standard mouse with one with a trackball or touch pad to relieve motions that can lead to repetitive stress injuries. To eliminate continuous reaching, the computer mouse should be in the keyboard tray next to the keyboard.
7. Add a footrest. Office ergonomics is all about proper alignment of your body for total comfort. A footrest is essential for supporting your legs. It also prevents lower back strain, in particular for people whose feet do not reach the floor when sitting.
8. Focus on posture. Although it’s difficult to think about your posture while working, it is important to prevent skeletal muscle injuries. Concentrate on standing tall, limiting slouching or leaning. If you stand on your feet all day, try to change positions by shifting weight. When sitting, your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your neck in a neutral position. Rather than twisting to reach something, turn your whole body. Try to vary positions frequently and take short breaks.
9. Proper lifts. No matter the work, there’s almost always some kind of lifting involved. Whether it’s lifting mail bins or files from a desk, without proper form back injuries are inevitable. Where heavy lifting is involved, back belts are essential to the workplace. For minor lifting, remember to bend your knees and keep the back straight.
10. Accessorize ergonomically. There are various items that should be used in the workplace but are often overlooked when evaluating office ergonomics. For example, you can minimize eye strain with a document holder that is positioned level with your computer monitor. This prevents your eyes from having to constantly refocus when looking from paper to monitor. A telephone headset or speaker phone aids in maintaining a proper position when multi-tasking.
11. Limit the noise. You might not put noise in the category of office ergonomics, but low-level noise could harm your hearing and at the very least cause stress. Some typical office noises come from computer hard drives, printers, copy machines, telephones, fellow co-workers and outside sounds. Building improvements to lower noise include adding an acoustic ceiling, installing partitions between workstations, carpeting floors and moving noisy equipment. Employees can wear earplugs to limit their exposure to background noise.
12. Check the lights. Poor lighting is a major cause of vision problems, eye strain and headaches. There are quite a few measures to implement to achieve optimal lighting in the office environment. First, the office should be equipped with full-spectrum lights and have tinted glass or blinds on windows to reduce glare. If necessary, task lighting at workstations should be installed.
When you consider that workplace injuries are extremely costly to a company and its employees, setting up a work area to maximize ergonomics reduces the likelihood of medical conditions like headaches, eye strain, neck and back pain, bursitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. The pursuit of office ergonomics is the way to create a quality work life that minimizes work-related injuries.