The first tip in becoming more ergonomically aware is – Be Proactive! See the changes you choose to make as an effort toward real long-term health gains rather than making changes to reduce injury and illness. Prehab instead of Rehab!
“Elbows to Eyeballs” is a phrase we try to make commonplace for folks looking to maintain an ergonomic workplace. Whether sitting or standing, keep your elbows at 90 degrees so your wrists stay straight, keep shoulders back and relaxed, and keep your head upright and eyeballs looking forward.
Below is a step-by-step setup on how you can adjust your workstation to be more ergonomically friendly. An Active Office is a happy office. Your body will thank you in the long run!
Ideally you should sit with your back pressed against the back of your chair that provides support for the natural curvature of your spine. When you are sitting on your chair the back of your thighs should be parallel to the floor as well supported. You should not be so far back in the chair that the back of your knees is touching the chair. The height of the chair should be set so that the feet can be flat on the floor or have a support under the foot if needed, see footrest section. The armrests should be set so that the arms can rest gently on them while being able to keep the shoulders relaxed.
If your chair is not adjustable, you are unable to place your feet on the floor, or you need to have your chair set higher, a footrest is advisable. Try to make sure that the surface is sturdy and not something like propping the feet up on a trash can receptacle. Ideally the feet should be flat on the surface, with it wide enough to accommodate both feet at hip distance apart.
You need a desk that will allow for the knees, thighs and feet to fit below comfortably. If the desk is too low, attempt to raise the desk with something sturdy, though this is where a standing desk can be helpful as it will help for modifying the height to suit your needs. If the desk is too high then raise your chair to accommodate the desk, this is where a footrest may become necessary to reach the optimum posture.
Key Items on your Desk
It's ideal to keep those items that you use regularly within close proximity to you on your workstation so that you are not having to reach repeatedly in different directions. If you are using the phone regularly it is advisable to invest in a headset rather than keep the phone between your shoulder and your ear. Those items that are not needed often should be moved out of the way to make space for the more commonly used items.
Keyboard and Mouse
The mouse should be the correct size for your hand, there are some mouses that are designed to be used with different hand/wrist positioning. The wrists should be in a neutral position, the upper arms should be within close proximity of your body and the hands should be at or just below elbow height. As with the mouse, you should be able to reach the keys while the upper arm remains close to your sides. The wrists should be in neutral and not resting on the table. The key board should be at or just below elbow height. Touch typing is optimal as it will help to ensure that the head position remains as neutral as possible. Try to learn keyboard shortcuts as they can reduce the amount of repetition required to alternate between mousing and the keyboard. If you are keyboarding all day, voice to speech software and a microphone could be invaluable assets within your office setting.
Your monitor should be set up directly in front of your body. It should be stationed an arms length away from your body with the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level. You may need to lower the monitor an additional inch or two to accommodate for bifocals. Your monitor should be angled at about 10 to 20 degrees. It may be necessary to have a monitor stand to get the right proportions correct between your sitting height and the monitor height.
If you are working from a laptop it may be worth investing in a laptop riser and an external mouse and keyboard, particularly if you are using your laptop all day. The screen of a laptop will be too low when working on a desk surface. To help with this issue a laptop riser will boost the screen to the correct height while an external keyboard and mouse will allow you to operate your system with the correct ergonomics for your upper body.
Having sufficient lighting is key to preventing eye strain and reducing fatigue throughout the workday. Natural light is optimum however, artificial lighting is better than insufficient lighting. This can be in the form of overhead lighting, desk lamps or a combination of the two. Try to limit bright light shining directly into the eyes if possible. Additionally, it may be best to limit shadows as much as possible with your work station.
No matter how ergonomic your set up is, it is still important to get up and move around every 30 minutes to help maintain energy levels, restore blood flow, and activate the muscles. By changing your position, you are allowing the hips and knees to move into extension which can in turn help the spine and other joints in reducing pain and stiffness. These mini breaks are also a great opportunity to ensure that you are hydrating sufficiently during the day and act as a way to help manage stress. Being able to sit down and stand up at your workstation is ideal, however you will need to take the time to adjust your set up when you change positions from sitting to standing.