The Basics of Office and Workplace Ergonomics
Sitting on a chair and working in front of the computer all day, every day proved to cause a lot of health concerns. Aside from the serious health risks associated with inactivity and sedentary lifestyle, people who work in office environments are either always exposed or have to deal with physical risks present in bad posture. Nagging pain such as back aches, shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and the likes, are big health concerns in office environments. Millions of people out there suffer from these problems every day, and if you’re one of them then, then this entry is for you. Dual Monitors Guide will help you get rid of the pain and maintain a healthy back.
Here are the different office ergonomics tips you need to know:
- Sit-Stand Desk and Why You Need It
- Benefits of Standing Laptop Desks
- Benefits of Desktop Risers
- Convert Regular Workstation to a Healthy Workstation with a Treadmill Desk
- How to Get the Best Office Chair for You
Those who sit most of the day, especially those who work in their computer while sitting in their office chair, are at high risk for back injury. A little slouching can cause damage and messes up our body, Keely Savoie from Prevention.com says. Rachel Nail from LiveStrong.com also detailed the different health problems caused by bad posture.
This is why computer ergonomics and office ergonomics, is crucial to help minimize the negative effects associated with prolonged sitting, particularly lower back pain, neck strain, leg pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. This entry will summarize the basics of ergonomic concepts, good body mechanics and mechanical devices you can have for a comfortable working environment. Importantly, this entry will also feature important things you can do to help keep your body fit and strong to avoid back injuries and all types of work-related health issues.
Poor Posture and its Health Risks
Before we talk about improving posture and work environment, it is important that we understand how poor posture affects our body. There are many potentially harmful situations that starts from bad posture that you can identify and avoid doing.
Prolonged Static Posture
This is the body’s number one enemy. Experts say that the human body can only tolerate one position for around 20 minutes. This is the reason why sitting at a movie theater, on an airplane, or at your office chair, becomes uncomfortable after a certain period of time. Sitting for prolonged period of time slowly diminishes our body’s structural integrity; the pain caused in soft tissues, including ligaments, muscles and tendons in the back builds up, which leads to discomfort and pain.
The solution for this is quite simple. When sitting and working on your computer, it is important that you change positions frequently. Standing, walking around, and stretching can make a huge difference in your body’s health and productivity. It promotes better blood flow and re-energizes your body. Also, having an alternate posture for a few minutes will help retain joint health and tissue elasticity of your body.
Reducing Back Pain with the Right Ergonomics
(image from Amazon)
Sitting in an office chair for prolonged period of time, no matter how comfortable and cushiony it looks like, can cause back pain or worsen existing back health problem. The main reason for this is that, the human body is not designed to sit for hours every day; static posture and gravity puts stress in the spine, back, legs, shoulders, arms. Also, the body’s natural tendency to slouch overstretches the spinal ligaments, straining the spinal disc and surrounding structure muscles. Overtime, this stress takes its toll toe the body, causing damage to the spinal structure and cause serious back pain. This is where ergonomics gets into the picture.
Basic Ergonomic Guidelines
Here are some basic guidelines you can employ to improve your workstation’s ergonomics to minimize or even avoid back pain or back injuries.
- Understand your body’s ergonomic needs. This is where a good-quality and comfortable office chair gets into the picture.
- Body posture as your tool to get through the day with minimal stress on your body.
- Learning the right body mechanics to minimize extra mechanical stress in completing your daily tasks.
- Maintain good level of fitness, including strength and flexibility for muscular integrity and overall health.
Ergonomic Office Chair Setup Guidelines
It is important to know that ergonomics is not a one-sized-fits-all solution. The idea of workplace ergonomics is to adapt the setup of the place to address the needs and requirements of specific user, dependent on the required task and someone’s physical makeup as he does the job and performs his everyday tasks.
(image from Rapidtyping.com)
A good quality office chair can provide maximum back support and help maintain good posture. However, simply having an ergonomic office chair is not enough – it is also very important to adjust the office chair to your body’s specific physical requirements. A chair that is not fit for your body can cause more harm than good.
Establish the Right Height
Getting the right height is the first step, and it depends on the type of work you want to do with your office chair. Also, you may need to vary the height of your chair to change positions. Adjust the chair according to your physical requirements. Refer to this checklist to get the right height setting for your chair.
Elbow Measure – This is the easiest way to get the ideal height for your chair. Start by measuring the distance between you and your monitor. Sit as close to the desk as you can and make sure your arms are parallel to your spine. Then, rest both hands on your computer desk. Your elbow should be in a 90° angle. From here, you can adjust the height of your chair to get the ideal angle for your elbow.
Arm Rest – Most office chairs come with armrests. They are great in providing upper spine and shoulder relief. If your office chair has armrest, adjust the armrest so that they can just slightly lift your arms at the shoulders. They can also make you less likely to slouch forward in your workstation.
(image from Amazon)
The eLink Pro Ergonomic Articulating Arm Support is a flexible and freely adjustable armrest. It’s made up of solid and hard-wearing aluminum alloy, allowing the arm weighing up to 22lbs. It helps keep correct posture and effectively relieves stress from arm and wrist by 90%. This arm rest fits to desk surfaces of 0 to 60mm thick.
(image from Amazon)
If you want an armrest that you can use with either your office chair’s armrest or desk, then you can opt for eLink Pro Deluxe Computer Armrest Wrist Rest. This product is made up of strong ABS plastic and ergonomically designed to provide comfort and convenience in both desk and chair setup. The armrest pad is nicely designed to reduce stress from wrist, arm, shoulder and spine, helping computer users keep good posture. It can rotate for up to 180° to accommodate all wrist and hand movement as you work on your computer.
Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic (image from Amazon)
Speaking of ergonomics and wrist positioning, you need to have the right pair of keyboard and mouse that fits your ergonomic requirements, especially if you work on your computer all day, everyday. Know more about ergonomic keyboard and mouse here.
Thigh Measure – Keep a breathing space between your thigh and the edge of your seat. You should be able to slide your fingers under your thigh. If the space is too tight, then you need your feet to be a little higher. You can use a footrest. For tall users, you need to raise the height of your desk or work surface and make it suitable for your office chair. There are lots of height adjustable desks in Dual Monitors Guide, you can also opt for sit-stand desks for better ergonomics and workspace flexibility.
(image from Amazon)
Vertdesk Electric Adjustable Height Desk for example, is a well-equipped, solidly-built and easy and convenient to use desk. It comes with a great easy-to-use Push Button Adjustable Control that lets you set the height of your work surface at your suitable height, and its whisper quiet lift mechanism lets you change the desk’s height without making too much noise in your office. It has wide adjustability range and it’s one of the cheapest electric sit-stand desks in the market today.
(image from Amazon)
If you want a manually-adjustable desk with the same flexibility and wide range of adjustability for maximum ergonomics, and solid built to let you put everything you want to have in your work desk, then check out Ergotron WorkFit-D, Sit-Stand Desk. This product is powered by the brand’s patented Constant Force (CF) technology, which provides the best comfort and ergonomics through smooth positioning and re-positioning of the display and keyboard whenever you want it. Also, this technology makes easy and fluid display adjustments, allowing smooth movements for lifting, tilting, panning, rotating and positioning of the display up and down. The one-touch adjustment also offers convenient control for both the monitor and keyboard.
Calf Measure – Push your bottom against the chair and try to slip your clenched fist between the back of your calf and the front of your chair. If you can’t slip your fist easily, then your chair is too deep. You have to adjust the backrest forward of your chair or insert a low back support like a rolled towel, pillow or a lumbar support cushion, or better yet, get an entirely new office chair that fits you.
Low Back Support – Push your bottom against the back of your chair, there should be enough cushion to arch your back slightly and keep you from slouching down in your chair or slumping forward as you get tired. Chair with good low back support is important to minimize the strain on your back. Slouching or slumping forward puts extra stress on your body, particularly on your lumbar discs, which often leads to back pain.
(image from Amazon)
Office Star Space Professional Air Grid Back Managers Chair for example, offers superior comfort with its sleek and smart design. It looks great in any office environment, and it’s packed with great features that will make sitting on this chair more comfortable. The mesh back of the chair features breathable dark air grid back with built-in lumbar support and a thick padded black mesh seat. It’s also equipped with 2 to 1 synchro tilt controls with adjustable tilt tension to help you customize your comfort. A heavy-duty nylon base with oversized dual wheel casters supports the whole thing in place.
Resting Eye Level – Make sure your gaze is aimed straight to the center of your monitor as you sit in front of your computer. This will reduce the stress on your upper spine. If your screen is a little higher or lower than your gaze, then you need to either raise or lower your screen. Some monitors don’t come with stand adjustments, while many offer very limited adjustability, making them quite difficult to work with. Your best solution for this dilemma is a third-party ergonomic solution, such as LCD monitor desk stand, wall mount, and height adjustable desks.
Maintaining Right Sitting Posture at Your Office Chair and Workstation
Posture is crucial for sitting, especially when working in a computer for extended period of time. Most computer users experience back aches, neck and shoulder pain due to bad posture. Fortunately, much of this pain can be avoided through combinations of:
Your Office Chair and Desk
AmazonBasics Mid-Back Office Chair (image from Amazon)
- Adopting or making a user-friendly and ergonomic workstation by adjusting the computer’s position, office desk and chair altogether. Choose a good quality office chair, one that comes with a good cushion, provides good back support, especially for the lower back, and a contoured front edge.
- Set or choose the right height for your desk surface. If you’re looking for more flexibility, adjustability and better overall ergonomics, then you can opt for height adjustable sit-stand desks. This type of desk gives you the luxury to choose between sitting and standing as you work on your pc, and switch whenever you like.
- Your forearms should be at 90° as you res it on top of your desk and work on your keyboard. Your palm and wrist should not ret at a sharp edge. Your arms should be perpendicular to the floor, not angled backward or stretched forward. Your lower legs should be perpendicular to the floor as well, while your thighs should be parallel to the floor.
Here’s a short video that details the right way to set your office chair:
Your Computer Setup
- As you sit and work on your computer, make sure you keep your head and neck upright and parallel with your torso, not tilted back or bent down. Keep your elbows close to your body as much as possible. You should be facing your computer screen directly, avoid having to turn your head or your back twisted.
- Find the right computer screen height. The top of your screen should be slightly below eye level. This will let you see the whole screen without having to bend your neck. Position your screen close enough to your eyes to see the texts and images displayed clearly without leaning forward.
Many computer monitors offer wide range of adjustability; you can adjust the height, tilt, swivel and even pivot your display to change display orientation from landscape to portrait and vice versa. However, not all monitors come with adjustable stand, and not all height adjustable stand come with enough adjustability options. Your best ergonomic solution is to use third-party LCD monitor stands. There are monitor stands out there that lets you adjust and re-position your screen wherever you like. Some even provide dual monitor or even multiple monitor set up to extend your screen real estate.
- Your mouse should be very close to your keyboard so you don’t have to reach for it.
- Changing sitting posture often. Most people sit on the edge of their seat and slouch forward to their computer screen. The best seated posture is to fully utilize your chair; sit back and let the chair provide your body full support to keep your neck and head erect and in the right position with your spine.
- Take frequent breaks and stretches. As said earlier, the human body is not designed to sit for hours every day. However, many of us who work in an office environment don’t have any other choice. To counteract the negative effects of sitting, stand up from your chair and stretch.
- Blink often and fully to rest your eyes and keep them from drying. If you usually find your eyes drying up, consult your doctor and ask for eye drops that will help keep moisten and lubricate your eyes. Closing your eyes and massaging the side of your eyes and head can also give a quick relief.
- If you are working with print documents, have those documents in as the same distance as your computer screen by using a document holder.
(image from Amazon)
- When talking to the phone, you can use hands-free headset so you can keep working on your keyboard.
- If you’re wearing biofocals or trifocals, you should be able to see your screen comfortably without tilting your head back or learning forward.
Follow these guidelines and tips and you will be ready to become productive at work, minimize stress and avoid nagging health issues such as back pain, neck and shoulder pain and headache.
Never forget that prolonged computer use, on a regular basis, will always be stressful and expose you to many different health risks. Take short breaks after about 20 minutes to 30 minutes of work. Stand up stretch and walk to promote better blood flow. Also, lastly balance your sedentary work with healthy lifestyle and nutrition and counteract the negative effects of inactivity. For more about workstation and computer ergonomics, check out Dual Monitors Guide now!