Ergonomics at Your Workstation

Discomfort in Your Work Area

By: Sabrina Campbell Allen

With nearly 50% of Americans employed in white collar jobs, and approximately 6.1 million people working from home; office ergonomics is a necessity. According to the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics; sprains, strains, and tears accounted for 38% of total injuries and illness cases in the work place. Furthermore, the back is the #1 body part affected by a work related injury.  The following 5 steps are quick and easy fixes to achieve a more comforting work station:

 

  1. Scoot In! Do yourself a favor and pull in closer.  The nearer you are to the desk, the better.  Avoid over-reaching to see the monitor or use the keyboard. You want to sit as close as possible to your desk or work area.  If you still feel yourself bending forward pull the monitor closer to you. You should be able to touch your monitor with the tip of your fingertips. The goal is for you to be able to relax with your back fully against the chair and not feel like you are chasing your monitor. You should be able to comfortably reach all of the items you use frequently, much like the illustration below.  
  1.  Sit Up Straight.  Adjust your chair so that you are sitting upright.  This will make a world of difference with how you feel and your back will definitely thank you later. Additionally, your chair should be at a height that will allow you to type without bent wrist, your wrist should be resting as flat as possible.  The best way to achieve this is to use the arm rest on the chair.  Adjust the armrest up or down to give your elbows and forearms the support it needs and deserve.   Pretty much all parts of your body should be at a 90 degree angle; back to hips; ankles to feet, and elbows. If you find that your feet are dangling a foot rest will be your friend. A footrest will also help alleviate any discomfort on the back of your thighs and legs.
  1.  Can you see? After making the above adjustments, make sure your monitor is at the right height. The rule of thumb is that the top of your monitor should be at or below eye level.  And if you are using two monitors equally, make sure that they are both directly in front of you and have an equal view.  A task light might also be helpful if you are having trouble with lighting.
  1.  Reduce Tension, Get Organized.  Have too much stuff in and around your work area?  This might be the source of some of your discomfort. Keeping your area free of unnecessary items can go a long way in your wellbeing and productivity.  The only paperwork that should be next to you are the items that you are currently working on.  Store other documents in a file holder and away from your immediate area.  Use bins to organize under desk items. Clear your desk as much as possible and give yourself room to breathe! Storage bins, big and small, are your friends; thus take advantage of them!
  1. Get Moving.  Last but certainly not least! Take breaks, it is imperative that you give your body a break. Try to get moving every 20-30 minutes.  This will help to reduce strain.  Walk to the copier, grab a drink of water, do a few stretches. Anything to ensure you aren’t in a static position hours and hours on end.  Stretching is important to reduce the chance of injury.  What do you do before going for a run? STRETCH! Therefore you shouldn’t begin your work day any different.   Here are a few easy stretches you can do before you start your day or during your micro breaks.
References:
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh2.pdf
http://www.globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics
http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/blue-and-white-collar-workers/
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