Workplace Ergonomics – Setting up for Sustainability
The term “ergonomics” is a hot topic in today’s society, one that is constantly thrown around in the desk-worker population. As regularly as it is used however, it is often still misunderstood for simply meaning “good posture”. So is there such a thing as ideal ergonomics and what does it really mean?
Essentially, ergonomics in the workplace refers to the interaction of the individual worker with their surrounding environment. As with any interaction, the relationship between the two can be either positive, negative or a combination of both. A negative relationship may increase the risk of injury (muscle soreness, headaches etc), whereas a positive relationship better allows for the maintenance of health (through injury prevention) and thus an effective environment to maximise output over a longer period of time.
The majority of the average office worker’s time is spent seated at their desk in front of a computer screen/screens, hence the importance of establishing a good relationship between these three elements (desk, chair and computer screen) is crucial.
- Raised to the point where both feet can be placed flat on the ground, while also providing for 90 degrees of knee flexion
- Two finger-widths gap between back of knees and chair base
- Seat base / back positioned to allow for 90-120 degrees hip flexion to place less strain / compression through hip flexors
- Height should be such so that when chair is adequately setup (as above) that the worker can slide knees under desk without obstruction
- Roughly 90 degrees of elbow flexion when hands are placed flat on desk
- Mouse / keyboard roughly between the 10-25cm zone from edge of desk
Computer / laptop
- Screen height raised so that eye level is roughly 1/3 down from top of screen (when above adjustments made)
- Screen distance roughly one arms length away from head
- When using a laptop, ideally use the above recommendations by connecting separate keyboard / mouse to account for this
Finding your best position
The above considerations provide a solid foundation for improving your office setup, however they may not be completely feasible for each individual based on a number of factors including individual dimensions (height, limb length etc) and the adaptability of your available equipment.
While it is near impossible to maintain an ideal posture all day, incorporating any number of the above suggestions will go a long way to not only improving your posture throughout the day, but also allowing for a more sustainable position that eliminates unnecessary tension and loading of the head, neck, back and limbs in compromising positions.
Lastly, move around your workplace often! Thirty minutes in a sedentary position is all it takes for our muscles to physiologically adapt and shorten. Getting up to stretch or make a cup of tea are both great ways to encourage short, regular periods of movement through your day. Upon resuming your seated position take note of how easy it is to settle back into a good posture after getting some movement into your body. After all, your best position is your next position!