Everything You Need to Know About Office Ergonomics

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the study of people and their working environment. The study and practice of ergonomics began as a result of increasing costs that are associated with workplace injuries from the soft tissues of the body. The average worker typically spends around 40 hours a week in the workplace. With proper ergonomics practice, workers can reduce pain, injuries, and even boost their productivity in the office.

What are some mistakes used in the workplace?

Whether you are working from home or in an office, we try to make our workspaces as productive and comfortable as possible since we dedicate a large period of time in them. Even though we may believe that our spaces are perfect for us, you may unknowingly be incorporating poor habits throughout the workday. Here are some of the top posture mistakes that are made:

  • Not moving enough
  • Hunching your shoulders
  • Gazing downward for too long
  • Using your couch for work if you’re working from home
  • Having your computer screen(s) too low
  • Using your laptop on your lap
  • Having your chair too low to the ground
  • Not stretching enough throughout the day

What is the most important aspect of ergonomics?

The most important item in your office is your chair. The chair is the top cause for back pain because many are poorly designed. When you’re looking for the ideal ergonomic chair for your workspace, you should focus on the following:

  • Adjustable seat height that allows your feet to be flat on the ground and your knees parallel to the floor
  • A gel or memory foam cushion for the best support
  • A minimum recline of 135 degrees to minimize any stress on the vertebra
  • Adjustable lumbar support to reduce the stress on your back as well as your upper body
  • Adjustable armrests
  • Supportive material that’s not overly hard but is also breathable
  • A swivel chair that allows the worker to reach items on their desk without struggle

How can I achieve the ideal ergonomic workplace?

The chair may be the most important item in the workplace, but it does not diminish the importance of the other components of the office. Everything in the ideal ergonomic work environment comes together to help support your body in a neutral position, reduce any discomfort, and increase working efficiency. Here are some ways that you can create the ideal ergonomic workplace:

  • Your desk should be at the proper height for using your keyboard comfortably and without strain. A desk that is too high can strain your forearms. A desk that is too low can cause a strained back from hunching over your work. A few solutions to remedy a desk you already have can be as simple as attaching a keyboard tray under your desk if it’s too high, or raising your chair to allow your arms to be parallel to the floor.
  • A keyboard mouse that fits comfortably in your hand and that is easy to move around the mousepad without difficulty. Your mouse and keyboard should be at a comfortable length where your elbows and forearms are parallel to the floor. Test this by sitting at your desk and holding your arms naturally at your sides and then bend your elbows. They should be very slightly in front of your body but still at your side, as if you were typing, to get the proper height for your work surface.
  • Your computer monitor(s) should be at a perfect height where you’re not craning or bending your neck to view it. Your monitor should be at a height where your eye level is between two to three inches below the top of the screen in order to protect your eyes from any strain or fatigue. Your screen should also be about an arms length away from you at a slight angle. Try adjusting the height with a monitor stand or even by raising the monitor with any flat item such as books or empty boxes.
  • When you sit down on your chair, your thighs should be straight and your knees should be at a 90° angle. You may need a footstool, or even a cardboard box, to help elevate and keep your legs to the correct angle.
  • Another way of preventing eye strain is having adequate lighting for your workspace. Overhead lighting is efficient for your workstation but natural lighting is preferred. Natural light not only allows your eyes to relax a bit, but it also can boost your energy levels and your overall well-being.
  • Include items that help reduce stress in your workplace. Stress can cause your muscles to tense up and to create a more negative workspace. Some things to include can be scented candles, small potted plants, pictures from home, whatever makes you feel relaxed.

office desk ergonomics

Are there DIY ways to provide an ergonomic home office?

A good thing to remember when it comes to working from home is to separate your workspace from your living area. Try to set up your work in a spare bedroom. A current working from home trend is creating a “Cloffice” which is transforming an unused closet into an organized office space. Distancing your desk from your bed, couch, and other areas normally associated with relaxation limits the possibility of blurring lines between rest and work and you gain more accountability in your own designated workspace. A standing desk does not have to cost a fortune. You can DIY a standing desk with a stack of books or boxes on your current desk. Alternatively, a taller dresser, ironing board or bookshelf will work well too. Just make sure that the keyboard and monitor are at the correct heights and distance.

How can I incorporate good habits in my ergonomic workspace?

Now that you have a more efficient workspace, here are some habits that you can incorporate during your workdays to ensure that you have enough movement throughout the day.

  • Try to divide your work time between sitting and standing. If you don’t have a workspace that is ideal for standing, try to take short little walks around the office. Whether it’s to the printer, to the kitchen, or even to a co-worker’s space. Try setting yourself movement reminders.
  • For every twenty minutes of staring at your computer monitors, you should spend twenty seconds looking elsewhere in order to avoid eye strain.
  • Declutter your workspace and keep it organized. A good way to do this is by incorporating extra shelving on the walls to provide you with more space and storage options. Don’t have room for shelving? Try using file containers, storage bins or sliding bins. A decluttered workspace provides for a more productive working environment.
  • Listen to what your body needs. If your back hurts, maybe it’s time to look into a better chair. If you’re tired, maybe it’s time for a coffee break. It’s better for you and your productivity to listen to your needs instead of ignoring them.

Wherever you are working from, you shouldn’t skip self-care. Follow these tips to help reduce strain on your spine and neck, and make sure to book a monthly massage appointment!