Do you suffer from back pain, neck strain, or sore shoulders at the end of a hectic day at work? Well, it’s because of the sedentary work culture that requires you to spend most time sitting in the chair. The problem is not sitting, but the poor workplace ergonomic that results in back issues and repetitive strain injuries (RSI). So, how can you set up an ergonomic workstation?
Workplace Ergonomics and its Importance
Ergonomics is the science of making a task fit for the human and not compelling the worker to adjust to the work equipment. An ergonomic work environment caters to the physical needs of the workers, especially if they spend most of the time sitting in front of a screen (computer/laptop).
Ergonomic solutions are crucial in creating a safe and efficient work environment. According to OSHA, awkward body posture, high repetitive tasks, and contact stress cause discomfort, pain, and fatigue. It eventually leads to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that affect your nerves, muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments.
Sitting for extended periods and awkward postures may also cause lower back pain, sore shoulders, RSIs, and decreased blood circulation, according to the Ergonomic Health Association. So, an ergonomic workstation is essential for good health and maximum productivity.
Setting Up an Ergonomic Workstation
While many companies consider the ergonomic risk factors when designing their workspace, each employee is responsible for using good ergonomics at their workplace. No ergonomic equipment is going to help unless you practice ergonomic principles in your work routine.
1. The Right Posture
Body alignment or holding the body in a neutral position is the first step to proper ergonomics. Whether you are sitting or standing, your body must be in a relaxed posture that does not require excessive stretching. Not sure what is your natural posture? Here is the deal:
- Scoot the chair away from the work desk and sit comfortably, just like you sit in the car seat.
- Your feet must touch the floor.
- As you lean back, your shoulders must feel relaxed – If you feel comfortable, this is the neutral posture.
When working while sitting, your hands, wrists, and forearms must be in line, straight, and parallel to the floor. Your head must be in line with your torso, facing forward. Standing at regular intervals is also suitable for good posture. Make sure you stand straight with your arms and wrists in the neutral position.
2. Customized/ Height-Adjustable Chairs
You spend more time with your office chair and desk then your family. So, make sure you choose a good one. You can make adjustments if you have a modifiable chair at the workstation. For instance, you can adjust the height such that feet touch the floor.
Adjust the armrests so that your shoulders are in a relaxed posture, with your elbows forming a 90 degrees angle. A pillow can provide extra lower back support. It is best to use customized chairs and desks that fit different body types.
An ergonomic chair prevents slouching as it supports the lower back. Companies must invest in functional ergonomic desks and chairs to encourage neutral body posture among workers, which, in turn, increase productivity.
- Desk Height Adjustment
Adjustable desks help you achieve optimal computer viewing. Your desk’s height must match your neutral posture. It must be high enough that you don’t knock your knees into the furniture when pulling your chair.
At the same time, your desk must be low enough that you can use the keyboard with your elbows forming a right angle. If your desk is at a proper height, you can pull the computer screen forward, without having to lean in and strain yourself. To read more on desks here’s a great article about the officeworks standing desk.
4. Proper Computer positioning
Good ergonomics suggest that the top screen of the monitor must be at the eye level of the user. If the display viewing is causing neck strain or eye squinting, make sure to adjust the height of the display.
If you are working on a laptop, use a propping stand, or keep it at your workstation desk at the right height. It is better to use an external keyboard and mouse with a laptop to avoid RSIs.
5. Keyboard and Mouse Placement
Reaching for the keyboard and mouse at a poor angle causes fatigue, pain, and RSIs. The placement of these input devices must be such that your elbows are straight, and your writs and finger in a neutral position.
Avoid closing your elbows or hyperextension of fingers as it leads to decreased blood circulation to your hand muscles. Using a wrist rest can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, and RSIs. You can use an ergonomic keyboard that provides a better typing posture.
6. Reduce Repetition; Rotate Tasks
High repetitive tasks, such as continually typing, can lead to MSDs. Even if you have good workplace ergonomics, task repetition can cause stress and fatigue. So, rotate your tasks throughout the day. Divide the work into smaller tasks. Gauge the ergonomic risk factor and find solutions. Mechanical assistance is beneficial to avoid additional stress on the body. If you cannot rotate tasks, change the neutral position.
- Stand up and move around; take a walk break.
- Alternate between sitting and standing; the ideal ratio is 1:1 to 1:3
- Take stretching break
- Avoid eye fatigue and eye strain using the 20.20.20 rule – every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away (look at the grass, wall clock, or anything but your screen) for 20 seconds.
7. Work on the Environment
If you think transforming your workstation into an ergonomic setup means making adjustments to your chair, computer, and desks only, you are mistaking. The environmental factors in an office setting, like lighting, airflow, humidity, and temperature, are equally important.
Equip your workstation with a proper lighting system. If you work on a computer, the lighting must not cause glare on the screen. However, a lighting system suitable for computer displays may not be ideal for reading printed material. So, make a smart choice.
Proper ventilation and good quality air also boost mood and increase productivity. But setting the temperature is tricky at a workspace as everyone has their preference. Cold temperature, however, is not suitable if maintained for an extended period, and can lead to numbness or MSD injuries. Set a temperature that makes the environment comfortable for everyone.