Proper Ergonomics for Your Workplace

Many people spend eight or more hours sitting at a desk and looking at a computer. Improper desk space setup can lead to many issues including neck sprain, Your desk should allow you to place your computer monitor directly in front of you, at least 20 inches away. Also, the monitor should be placed so that the top of the screen is at or below eye level. If possible, the monitor should be placed perpendicular to any windows. Computer users often blink less when they are looking at a monitor. It is suggested that users rest their eyes on an item about 20 feet away for 5-10 seconds every fifteen minutes to avoid excessive eye strain.

Avoid storing items such as a computer under your desk. Having inadequate space under your desk can lead to shoulder, back, and neck pain due to users sitting too far away from the computer and they have to reach excessively for the computer and mouse. If possible, make sure you have enough work surface space so that devices such as a keyboard and mouse are not in undesirable positions which cause you to sit in awkward positions. The items that you use most (phone, keyboard, mouse, etc) should remain in your primary work zone (see photo below).

Some desks and computer equipment such as keyboards have hard, angled edges which come in contact with one’s arm or wrist. This can create stress on these areas leading to conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. In order to minimize this stress, use a wrist rest or if possible, buy furniture with rounded edges.

Your office chair is a very important part of your workstation. Proper back support is necessary to maintain the natural curvature of the spine. If your chair does not have a built in lumbar support, use a rolled up towel or you can purchase a removable lumbar support to attach to your chair. Your chair should be able to recline at least 15 degrees from vertical. The armrests of the chair should also be adjustable. If the armrests are too low, this may cause you to lean over to one side in order to rest your forearm leading to awkward positions and muscular fatigue. If the armrests are too high, it may cause you to raise your shoulders leading to neck and shoulder tension. If the armrests are too wide, it can cause you to reach with your elbows and lean forward which leads to awkward posture and muscle strain in the shoulders and neck.

Lastly, desk surfaces that are too high or too low may lead to users sitting in awkward positions. Possible ways to fix this are to raise your work surfaces by inserting boards or concrete blocks under the desk legs, remove center drawers to create additional thigh clearance, or lower work areas by cutting off desk legs. If the work space cannot be lowered, raise the chair to accommodate the user. If raising the chair to the proper height causes the users feet to not completely reach the floor, provide a footrest to support the users feet.

These relatively quick fixes to your work space can help prevent many future musculoskeletal issues due to improper ergonomics.