Good ergonomics can improve your health and productivity. After all, you can’t do your best if you’re uncomfortable. Unfortunately, many computer workstations are not ergonomically friendly, putting the health of many workers at risk.
Below are some of our tips to creating an ergonomic computer workstation:
You’ll be staring at a monitor for several hours, so you might as well be comfortable while doing so. To properly position your computer monitor, place the screen at a 15-degree down angle from your eyes. Then, push it back as far as you can without harming your ability to read what’s on the screen. Finally, be sure to position your monitor at a right angle to any light sources to minimize glare.
In addition to the monitor there is the keyboard. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a major concern for many desk workers, but by properly positioning your keyboard, you can minimize your risk. Place your keyboard slightly below your elbows. As you type, your wrists should remain straight as you sit in a (slightly) reclined position.
Finally, there’s the mouse. While we don’t often think of our mouses, they can cause fatigue and strain to our wrists, hands, and arms. The mouse should be positioned at the same level as your keyboard. Keep it nearby the keyboard so that you don’t have to reach too far to use it. Additionally, you should not be using a wrist rest while you’re using your mouse or, for that matter, your keyboard. Wrist rests are meant to rest your wrists during a break—they are not meant as supports.
For several years, the significance of ergonomics and good posture has been understated. However, with more and more research and data released, it is apparent that the sitting conditions we practiced in our younger years have notable effects on our health as we get older.
Your upper body weight pushes down on the base of your spine as well as the surrounding ligaments and muscles, causing pain after several years. Normally when you experience back pain, you respond naturally by hunching forward. This stretches the ligaments that hold your disc in place. Over time, your discs begin to push out to the nerves of your spinal column because the stretched ligaments are incapable of keeping the base of your spine any longer. The pressure causes a lot of pain, which may result in needing physical therapy or surgery.
Benefits of an Ergonomic Chair at Home
An ergonomic chair is important for use at home because of the number of hours most people spend in front of their computers. Ergonomic seating at the home has become just as important as in the office. Here are some benefits ergonomic chairs have to offer:
It promotes a neutral seated posture: Many people have developed incorrect posture as a result of the way they sit on traditional chairs. With ergonomic chairs, these problems are well taken care of. It comes with the features essential to sufficiently support your posture while sitting. Moreover, the chair’s height can be adjusted so that your feet sit flat on the floor.
Comfortability: Unlike normal chairs, you can sit in ergonomic chairs and feel comfortable throughout. If the features don’t make you comfortable, you can adjust them individually till they fit your needs.
It reduces the risk of back pain: Since ergonomic chairs come with a backrest that supports the spine’s natural curve, they help to keep the back relaxed and free of pain. They are higher than traditional chairs and support the entire back. They also come with a reclining function that make it easy to rest at an angle beyond 90 degrees.
Reduces pressure on the hips: The hard surface of normal chairs makes sitting uncomfortable and cause unnecessary contact pressure on your hips. An ergonomic chair has a good seat depth that helps to support the hips and buttocks.
An ergonomic chair is worth the investment to prevent future issues concerning posture and overall physical health.
Prolonged and repetitive work at your computer workstation, poor posture, lack of proper equipment and incorrect ergonomic information are all contributing factors to an improper computer setup which can lead to computer-related injuries. Computer-related injuries cover a wide variety of injuries and health problems caused by or exacerbated by computer usage. Many computer-related injuries can prevented by simply setting up an ergonomic computer workstation.
In setting up your ergonomic computer workstation, the goal is to set it up so you will be able to reach your entire work area (including your phone, computer keyboard, computer mouse, frequently used office supplies, etc.) without having to strain or twist your body. Today, numerous Universities like Cornell, Stanford, UC Davis, University of Virginia, UCLA and others have done intense studies highlighting the benefit of ergonomic computer workstations and the dangers to workers’ health arising by not following certain guidelines.
General Guidelines on Setting up an Ergonomic Computer Workstation
The following are general guidelines based on this research on how to set up an ergonomic computer workstation at the office or at home:
The chair is key to an ergonomic computer workstation because sitting, in an office chair or in general, is a static posture that increases stress in the back, shoulders, arms, and legs, and in particular, can add large amounts of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs. That is why it is important to use a good chair with a dynamic chair back that supports your lumbar region and adjust the height so your feet are flat on the floor. This keeps the knees and torso at roughly the same height. To find this height, stand by the chair and raise or lower the seat pan to just below your elbows bent between 90 and 110 degrees to promote good low back health.
Adjust the chair armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed and your elbow bends at around a 90 degree angle. Use of an armrest on your office chair is important to take some of the strain off your upper spine and shoulders, and it should make you less likely to slouch forward in your chair. However, if your armrests are in the way, remove them temporarily.
Your feet should be flat on the floor or on a stable footrest to help reduce strain on back and neck muscles.
The top of monitor casing should be 2-3″ (5-8 cm) above eye level and centered directly in front of your face (preferably no more than 35 degrees to either side). If you wear bifocals, lower the monitor to a comfortable reading level. This helps reduce the risk of eye strain and awkward positions.
To determine the proper distance for your monitor, sit back and extend your arm. The tips of your middle finger should land on your screen – between 20 and 40 inches (50 and 100 centimeters) from your face. Laptop users may want to consider height adjustable laptop stand, which can accommodate a variety of workers and work postures.
Make sure there is no glare on screen. If necessary, place screen at right angles to windows, adjust curtains or blinds or use an optical glass anti-glare filter. Don’t forget to adjust the vertical screen angle and screen controls to minimize glare from overhead lights.
Use an inline copy stand to position source documents directly in front of you, between the monitor and the keyboard. If there is insufficient space, place source documents on a document holder positioned adjacent to the monitor.
When using a keyboard/mouse/input device, your wrists should flat and straight in relation to forearms. You can also alternate left and right-sided mouse usage to reduce the effects of repetitive use.
Position your keyboard about 1 to 2 inches above your thighs and in a place where your arms and elbows are relaxed and close to body. This way, you are not extending your arms too far forward or bending your elbows too far back to type. To reach the keyboard, your forearms should bend no more than 20 degrees above horizontal (if sitting) or 45 degrees below (if standing).
Center the keyboard in front of you, so you are not reaching to one side or another to type. And, position the mouse near the keyboard, so it is easy to transition from typing to mousing. Ideally, your keyboard and mouse should be shoulder-distance apart and as level as possible.
Use a negative tilt keyboard tray with an upper mouse platform or downward tiltable platform adjacent to keyboard, so that your arms and hand follow the downward slope of your thighs.
Use a stable work surface and stable (no bounce) keyboard tray.
Place your telephone within easy reach. Telephone stands or arms can help. Use a headset or speaker phone to eliminate the awkward posture of cradling the handset.
Setting an Ergonomic Computer Workstation Alone is Not Enough to Prevent Injuries
Setting up an ergonomic computer workstation is not enough to assure the reduction of computer related injuries. You also need to take frequent short breaks (microbreaks) at least once every hour to give your eyes and muscles a break. This helps prevent eye strain and muscle fatigue. Take time to stand up, stretch and move around. Get up and get a glass of water, get some office supplies you need from the cabinet or make a phone call. Try to stand as much as possible when on the phone to help stretch out your muscles and vary your posture. Frequent microbreaks are as important to your health as any other part of an ergonomic computer workstation because they keep you awake, productive and healthy and keep you from developing Deep Vein Thrombosis and other conditions arising from not varying your posture often enough.
This OSHA Ergonomic Solutions checklist can help you create an ergonomic computer workstation. If you have questions or need further assistance in setting up your ergonomic computer workstation, call Accredited Rehabilitation Consultants at (323) 930-6599