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Ergonomics for the Workplace

Ergonomic Workplace Tips

When looking at a typical office there has been a shift in the physical ergonomics of the job to more computer based work. This has taken place over the past several decades as our society becomes more digitized. What this means is that more and more people are sitting for their jobs on a daily basis. This transition to a full time sedentary lifestyle has its own set of risk factors which build over time. That could mean neck or back pain when coming home from work. Or over time developing chronic aches or arthritis. It is with this knowledge one can take steps to protect their long term health. The beginning comes from assessing the ergonomics of where you spend most of your time, and for most people that is at the desk.

There are three key things I plan to go over;

  1. Computer screen height,
  2. Chair height, and
  3. Desk height.

All three are important when optimizing your desk as an ergonomic workstation.

Worker sitting at computer with bad ergonomics

An example of an average computer worker

Screen Time

The first thing is computer screen height and it’s an important one. You want your computer screen to be high enough that your eyes are level with the top of your screen. This could mean moving your chair up or raising the height of the screen. If your screen can not rise on its own you could use a screen stand or get more creative with boxes or even books to raise it up. This puts your neck in a more ergonomical neutral position that reduces stress on its internal structures. If the screen is lower or higher than your head, your neck will be tilted for a sustained period of time. Throughout the day this will put a stretch on the muscles and ligaments of your neck. This is what can lead to a sore and stiff neck at the end of the day. In the long term, over months and years, those stress points can develop arthritic changes.

Worker sitting at computer with eyes level with ergonomic screen

Making sure to have the eyes level with the top of the screen by using boxes.

Chair Height Ergonomics

Notice the feet planted flat on the floor and the low back is straight in the chair.

Taking a Seat

Another important consideration in the work environment is chair height. This will help determine what angle your lower body is during your work. An optimal ergonomic height is one where you can sit back into your chair with your low back supported. Another thing to check is to make sure your feet can be flat on the floor. If your chair is too low or high it leads to a tendency to round the low back. This can lead to low back soreness and pain after a couple hours of work. This also opens the door for potential future degeneration in the long term.

How high to go?

The final thing one can consider when improving the ergonomics of your workplace is desk height. This may be the hardest one to control for depending on your desk. Some desks have features like sit to stand or variable adjustable height options. There are certain ways to work around it. Starting with your seat, you want your chair to be high enough that you can reach the top of your desk with ease. You want easy access to your computer mouse, pencil, or keyboard without having to stretch or reach for it. This can mean getting creative with seating options. One idea is to have a cushion under your chair or a box under your feet to raise your height if the desk is too high. For people with low desks or screens there are a couple of different options. Solutions include screen stands, packaging boxes, or even a good old fashion textbook. These can bring a screen, keyboard, or mouse up to a more neutral position.

Making use of the arm rests of the chair and that the mouse and keyboard are within reach.

Video

Here is a brief video describing how to set up your workstation. It goes over the same topics discussed in the article.

Those are my 3 main tips for correcting and optimizing the ergonomics of a work environment. You can use these ideas as a foundation and build upon them. There are many other improvements out there. One can explore sit to stand desks, adjustable-height screens, or an adjustable office chairs. By investing in your work environment you can take steps to prevent workplace injury and maintain spinal health in the long term. If you have any back or neck pain while at work come book an appointment at our office. We can determine what is causing your pain and treat it.

Good Computer Ergonomics

Putting it all together your posture should look something more like this picture. The neck is not forward, the back is not rounded, and the keyboard and mouse are within reach. We used boxes to raise the monitor, and the feet are flat on the floor.

I want to hear from you about what your office workplace tweaks are and how it helps you stay healthy. If you want to find out more information on the topic of ergonomics check out this podcast from Dr. Kevin Christie at the Modern Desk Jockey: https://www.healthfitcorpwell.com/003-desk-ergonomics/. Also check out this infographic from the Ontario (Canada) Chiropractic Association describing good desk posture:

Ergonomic Workstation Setup

About the Author:

I am currently a chiropractor in Portland Oregon. My passion lies in office and workplace ergonomics. I like getting people out of pain and making sure they stay out of pain. When I'm not at work, I'm exploring local Portland hikes and the food scene.

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