No matter what kind of office job you have, being comfortable and protecting your well-being are important. As more people spend their nine to five (and often much longer) hunched over desks, ergonomics are more important than ever. However, it’s time to forget having “just” an ergonomic chair or simply following ergonomic best practices. Ideally, you have a complete ergonomic office cubicle to ensure that you’re safe, your body is protected and you have the tools at your disposal to bust out those TPS reports like nobody’s business.
There’s no one size fits all solution to ergonomics, and it’s more of a lifestyle than a quick fix. Simply put, ergonomics is the study of the connection between people and the objects they use as well as their environment. The goal? To match the task to the person. In the long run, ergonomics improves a person’s health, reduces employer costs due to absences or lack of productivity, and guarantees that certain legal and social obligations between employer and employee are met.
Before you start shopping for the ultimate ergonomic chair or wrist rest, begin at the beginning. Is there an existing complaint or problem? Take the time to evaluate the current situation, and work with an ergonomics expert to make sure you’re on the right track. Is there a contraindication between the problem and human capabilities? Remember that this is a science, so pinpoint possible solutions with the help of an expert, implement recommendations and evaluate the success. Just giving someone an ergonomic piece of equipment is a small part of the process—make sure you go full circle.
One of the best investments you can make is in an ergonomic chair. Ideally, a person should be able to sit with their feet flat on the floor and their knees and hips at 90-degree angles. Ensure that two fingers can fit between the knees and the edge of the seat. The lower back should have plenty of lumbar support, and some people prefer extra support at the upper back. Arm rests, if preferred, should allow the arms to also rest at 90 degrees. Ergonomic chairs tilt between 95 and 110 degrees to allow for comfort.
Setting Up Shop
Computer workstations are just as important as chairs. Ensure that they’re placed right in front of the user, about 20 inches from the body. The top of the monitor should be at eye level to sidestep neck tension and the best viewing angle is between 15 and 30 degrees below. This decreases neck and eye fatigue. The keyboard and tray should also be directly in front of the user, and it should be natural to rest the fingers with the wrists in neutral. Ensure shoulders are relaxed, not hunched, and that the mouse is within easy reach.
Foot rests are welcome additions for many, and document holders are ideally placed beside the monitor to decrease uncomfortable neck posturing. However, there’s only so much that office furniture can do (although ergonomic furniture can work wonders). People also need to be aware of their posture, focusing on relaxation and neutral positioning. Simply holding tension or an awkward pose can lead to damage and reduced blood flow.
Make ergonomics a top focus, and your employees will thank you. It’s an employer’s responsibility to keep their workers safe and comfortable, but it’s an employee’s job to speak up and adjust their own habits to optimize comfort and safety.