Ergonomics is the study of the interaction between people and their work environments. The goal of ergonomics is to adapt the work environment to the employee. Generally, we can make employees more comfortable at their work station with minor adjustments.
Adjust Your Work Area
The goal of adjusting your work area is to fit your equipment to you, rather than working around your belongings or current processes. Make adjustments in the following order:
- Adjust essential equipment, such as your chair, monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
- Adjust items that are used frequently, such as your phone or calculator.
- Adjust items you use only occasionally, such as binders and books.
- Adjust the height of your chair, so your feet are flat on the floor. If your desk is too high, then get a footrest.
- Sit with your hips fully back in the seat pan. The angle at the hips should be no less than 90 degrees. Change the seat height and/or tilt to make adjustments.
- Adjust the back tilt to a position that feels supportive while seated in your upright work posture. Adjust the lumbar curve of the chair so that it supports the natural curve in your lower back.
- Check the distance between the front edge of the seat pan and the back of your knees. The gap should be approximately two inches. If your seat pan is too short or too long, then it can cause pressure and fatigue.
- When you are seated fully in the chair, you should feel that the chair comfortably supports you and allows your head, neck, shoulders, elbows, and hips to be aligned and balanced. When you adjust one part of the chair, check any previous adjustments. Adjustments to one part of the chair (height, tilt, lumbar curve) may change the fit of another.
- Position the monitor directly in front of you. The monitor should be 18 to 30 inches away from your face, or about the length of your arm.
- Adjust the monitor's height, so that the top line of your work is slightly below your eye level. For larger screens, adjust the height or screen window so that your eyes are about level with the main window.
- A slight tilt of the screen upward (up to 20 degrees) may improve viewing comfort when looking down.
- Avoid a monitor height or screen position that makes you look upward or extend your neck to view the screen.
- Adjust the height of your keyboard, so that your elbows are positioned at no less than a 90-degree angle.
- Keep your upper arms relaxed and as close to your sides as possible.
- Keep your keyboard flat or tilted slightly downward away from you, to keep your wrists in-line with your forearms.
- If you find yourself frequently looking down to type, then consider improving your typing skills rather than tilting the keyboard upward or repeatedly looking down.
- Your wrists should only lightly touch a wrist guide. If you tend to completely rest on the guide, then check your reach distance and try to keep your upper arms close to and relaxed at your sides.
- Place the mouse just next to the keyboard. Avoid reaching up, down, or out away from your body.
- If possible, alternating using your mouse on the right and left sides to better distribute your workload.
- Move the mouse with your entire arm, not just your wrist.
- Place your copy holder below or just to the side of your monitor.
- If the copy holder is beside the monitor, then place it at the same height as the monitor.
- Avoid holding your phone with your neck and shoulder – this can cause neck discomfort.
- If you use the phone frequently, consider getting a headset.
- Try to stand and stretch while on the phone, if possible.
- Position items you use frequently close to you.
- Move non-essential items away from your main work area.
- Keep your work area clear of clutter.
- Keep the space around and under your desk clear of clutter.
- Tie up cords to keep them away from your feet and avoid tripping.
- Eliminate glare sources whenever possible.
- If glare is from an outside source, then check to see if shades or blinds can be installed.
- Check if overhead lights can be turned down or off in favor of task lighting, where appropriate.
- Consider getting a desk light where your eyes cannot directly see the bulb instead of bright lights from under a cubical shelf.
- When possible, adjust your monitor be parallel to outside light sources to reduce glare.
- Avoid having a light source directly behind you that creates a glare on your screen.
- Consider getting an anti-glare screen protector.
- Be aware that if you have bi-focal or multi-focal lenses, then you may have difficulty adjusting the height of the screen so that your head and neck position can remain neutral.
- Discuss getting computer lenses or lenses that filter blue-light with your eye care professional.
- To help keep your eyes feeling refreshed while doing computer or deskwork, look up every so often and focus on distant objects.
- Blink often.
- Maintain a schedule of regular eye checks to avoid vision problems.
- Vision problems can lead to poor posture. If you notice yourself leaning or hunching forward to see your work, then make sure to evaluate not only your workstation, but also your ability to see clearly and comfortably while seated.
Move Around, Take Breaks, and Stretch
- Vary your tasks as much as possible throughout the day. Consider reorganizing, reordering, or prioritizing your work differently.
- Incorporate physical movement whenever possible. For example, take the opportunity to stand while taking on the phone or place reference materials on shelves or a location that requires you to turn your whole body, stand, or walk to retrieve them.
- Avoid remaining seated at your work station or using the computer during regular break times – walk or stretch instead.
- Avoid reaching and lifting for items – stand up and take a few steps instead.
- Avoid bending your back to move or pick up items – squat and use your legs instead.
A micro-break is a 20 to 30 second break to do any of the following:
- Change your position after an hour of sitting.
- Stand up to do another task, walk to another office, or just stretch.
- Relax and stretch your hands, wrists, and arms every 20 to 30 minutes.
- Rest your eyes at least once per hour. Try cupping your hands over your eyes for 30 seconds or looking at a distant object for 30 seconds.
Make Sure to Stretch
- Lower your right ear to your right shoulder and hold for five seconds then switch to left ear and repeat five times.
- Turn your head and look over your shoulder and five seconds. Switch and repeat four times.
Shoulders and Arms
- Put your hands up like a goal post and push your arms back, squeezing your shoulder blades. Hold for five seconds, then relax and repeat as needed.
- Drop your arms and hands at your side and shake them out for a few seconds. Relax and repeat as needed.
- Take one hand and gently bend back the fingers until the wrist is bent back. Hold for five seconds, relax, and repeat on the other side.
- At chest height, press both hands together and lower hands toward your desk, until you feel the stretch in the wrists. Hold for five seconds, relax, and repeat as needed.
- Spread your fingers wide and hold for five seconds. Relax and repeat as needed.
- Curl fingers into a fist starting with the little finger, then curl the wrists and hold for five seconds. Relax and repeat.
- Massage inside and outside of hand with thumb and fingers then shake out.
- Stand up and slowly arch your back with your hands supporting your lower back and hold for five seconds. Relax and repeat.
- With your left arm above your head, lean to the right and hold for five seconds. Relax and repeat on other side.
Request an Ergonomic Evaluation
Employees may request an ergonomic evaluation of their work stations through their supervisor. Please explain why you want the evaluation. If you have a doctor's note requesting an ergonomic evaluation, then please include that with your request.
Your supervisor will forward the request through the appropriate channels to the vice president of administration (VPA) or director. The VPA or director will forward the request to Risk Management, who will then schedule an appointment with you. After the evaluation, Risk Management will send a report with recommendations to the VPA or director.
Supervisors and managers can also request ergonomic evaluations on behalf of their employees.
What Happens During an Ergonomic Evaluation?
During the evaluation, we will:
- Review your working posture
- Teach you how to adjust your chair, keyboard, and mouse
- Review the location of other office equipment (such as your phone, calculator, document holder, and so on)
- Discuss the importance of stretching and taking micro-breaks
Based on the evaluation, we may provide equipment (such as a chair) for the employee to try out for a short period of time to see if it improves the employee's comfort or helps correct their posture. Based on the results of the demo equipment, we may make an equipment recommendation in the report that will be sent to the VPA.