With so much time spent at our desks, it has a huge impact on our bodies. As we adjust to working from home, we may be dealing with less than ideal desk set-ups. Whether working from home or in the office, spending the time to set up your workstation can keep you or your employees safe from future injury and pain.
If you work seated at a desk all day, the chair will be the most important piece of ergonomic equipment at your workstation. An ergonomic chair can be adjusted completely to suit your body. Start by checking that your feet are flat on the floor. If not, adjust the height of your chair or desk or use a foot stool.
Sit back in the chair so your legs are supported. There should be a 10 cm gap between the seat front and the backs of your knees. Check the seat back is providing good lumbar support for your lower back. If your chair has arm rests, adjust them up or down so your shoulders are in a comfortable, natural position.
If you’re using a chair with armrests, they should be able to fit under the desk so you can sit as close to the desk as you need. The ideal distance to sit from your monitor is arm lengths. When you stretch out your arms at shoulder height, your fingertips should be touching or close to touching your monitor. If you have a very large screen, you may need to add a little viewing distance.
Monitor distance is important for good eye health. Sitting too close requires muscular effort to focus on objects at close distances which strains the eyes. Sitting too far away can cause you to strain to see the screen and sit forward in your chair so your back isn’t well supported.
It’s also important to look away from your computer screen a few times every hour and focus on an object in the distance. Even better, stand up and walk away so your eyes can adjust to different light conditions.
With many workers using multiple screens, monitor height is even more important. Adjust the monitor so that the top of the screen is at the same or slightly below eye level. If the monitor is any higher or lower, you’re likely to not sit with a straight back because you aren’t looking straight ahead. Try to keep monitors as close together as possible to limit unnecessary head movement which can cause fatigue.
An ergonomic mouse will ensure it’s comfortable to use for long periods. It should keep your wrist in a neutral position.
Place the mouse close and in line with the keyboard. Both the mouse and keyboard should be close to the front of the desk but not too close that your wrists aren’t properly supported by the desk. If you feel your wrists need added support, invest in a wrist rest on your desk which redistributes pressure points and can make a long day feel more comfortable.
Throughout the day, check that your keyboard and mouse are in the correct position. It’s easy to move the mouse and not realise you’re stretching across your desk to reach it.
The angle of your legs and arms matters because you could be placing joints under unnecessary pressure. Your thighs should be horizontal so check that your chair seat isn’t angled too high up or down. Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle. Your elbows should also sit at a 90 degree angle.
One of the most common complaints amongst office workers are neck and shoulder pain and injuries. When we’re working under pressure or stress, it’s a natural instinct to raise and tighten the shoulder muscles. When we spend long periods working in this position, it can lead to a painful injury. Throughout the day check that your neck and shoulders aren’t tense. If so, take a break or do a few shoulder rolls and raises to help loosen the muscles.
If you have the option of raising and lowering a sit-stand desk, change its position throughout the day. While standing at a desk won’t counter the sedentary nature of your job, it will vary your posture so the same joints aren’t under constant pressure. Standing all day in one spot or sitting all day have health consequences but by varying your position, you’re reducing your risks.
It’s not just your workstation that you need to consider when it comes to office worker health. Check that the lighting isn’t too dull or bright and that the light isn’t causing glare on your screen. Air temperature can have a big impact on your comfort level so, if you can, adjust it so you’re not feeling too hot or cold. If you answer the phone regularly, check that it’s within easy reach so you’re not stretching. Don’t place files you access regularly on a shelf above your head. Make sure there are no trip or slip hazards like cords or boxes around the office that can cause a serious injury.
Just as it’s important to get your ergonomic workstation setup just right, so is leaving it. Take regular breaks away from your desk so you get your blood circulating and the muscles moving while you walk. Don’t eat lunch at your desk. Ideally go outside for some fresh air and exercise. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to tackle the afternoon’s work.
There’s a lot to think about with workstation ergonomics. Sometimes it’s best to ask the experts to check that your workstation is set up correctly. If you’re recovering from an injury, trying to relieve a niggling pain or avoid one, an ergonomic assessment can help. Whether you’re working from home, an office or even your vehicle, an assessment will ensure your equipment matches the work you do and your body’s needs.
For more information about our Ergonomic Assessments, call us on 1800 258 487 contact us online.