Long hours of repetitive work and sitting on a computer workstation can take a strain in many parts of the body including the back, the arms, the shoulders, the neck and the legs. You may experience different types of pains, including headaches, eye strain, back aches, leg pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and more. These may result in decreased productivity and even absenteeism, and can increase work related medical costs. Here are some ways to improve your workspace to maintain body health.
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the study of designing equipment and devices, including furniture that fit the human body and its movements to achieve health and productivity. Proper ergonomic design is important to prevent repetitive strain which can develop over time and can lead to injury and long-term disability.
A properly designed workstation promotes proper posture, reduces strain and prevents injury. But promoting health also entails an individual’s work related habits that involve proper movement, re-adjustment of position and movements to achieve comfort and prevent prolonged stress on a body part.
Improving Your Workspace for Body Health
1. Use an ergonomically comfortable office chair with adjustable backrest and adequate lumbar support to prevent back pains. Instead of using a chair with an upright back rest, choose one that allows you to recline at least 15 degrees from the vertical. The backrest should lock in place or adjust to tension to provide adequate resistance to lower back movement.
2. Use a chair that has a seat wide enough for your hip size and tall enough to allow your feet to reach the floor comfortably. If the seat cannot be lowered, use a footrest to provide a stable support for the feet. If you need armrests adjust them to a neutral arm position – not too high and not too wide, to keep your arms close to you.
3. Use a height-adjustable work surface for sitting and standing work as another option. Electronic sit-stand workstations that can be easily adjusted allow workers to modify the height of their work surface throughout the day, reducing musculoskeletal discomfort and improving work performance.
4. Position the top of your monitor 2″ to 3″ above your seated eye level so that you will be able to view the screen without having to turn your head or tilt it up or down.
5. Avoid computer glare by using an anti-glare or anti-radiation computer filter.
6. Do not position your monitor too close or too far away from you or you will eventually suffer from eye strain. Always keep the monitor and the keyboard centered in front of you.
7. Adjust your chair and work surface height to maintain a neutral body posture, so that your elbows are about the same height as the keyboard and hanging comfortably to the side of your body. Your position should allow your shoulders to relax and your wrists neither bending up or down or to either side when using the keyboard.
8. Always maintain a comfortable working posture in which your joints are naturally aligned, with your body in a neutral position to reduce stress and strain on the muscles.
9. No matter how good your working posture is, working in the same position for prolonged periods is not healthy. Change your working position frequently throughout the day by making small adjustments to your chair or backrest and stretching your fingers, hands, arms, and upper body. You may also consider switching to a sit-stand desk which allows you to stand more often and sit during breaks.
10. Take frequent short breaks every 30-60 minutes to stretch, stand up and walk around for a few minutes.
- OSHA. Computer Workstations. Accessed 5/7/12.
- Ergo in Demand. Guidelines on Computer Workstation – Computer Ergonomics. Accessed 5/7/12.
- CUErgo. Ergonomic Guidelines for arranging a Computer Workstation – 10 steps for users. Accessed 5/7/12.