Read these 35 Ergonomics Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Balance tips and hundreds of other topics.
The exercise ball, or Swiss ball, is a dynamic tool that can provide many health benefits when used as a chair. Envision your basic office chair as a cast, or a brace: it keeps your body static, so your core muscles – which are the basis for your posture - become weakened. Moreover, this static sitting position does not allow you to maintain a good relationship with gravity, so that your body “sinks” over time, causing you to slouch and sit in awkward positions to relieve the pressure on your spine. The ball as chair, though, is an active surface, and sitting actively leads to improved posture, core strength and body awareness. The dynamic motions created by sitting on a ball helps relieve the pressure of gravity, and the freedom of movement afforded by sitting on a ball allows your spine to find its optimal posture. You'll make minute adjustments to your position while you sit on the ball, and these help improve circulation, which helps keep inter-vertebral discs healthy. Moreover, the instability of the ball and the lack of a backrest encourage the use of stabilizer muscles in our core, and increased core strength translates to better posture.
Don't ignore the armrests on your ergonomic desk chair. Resting your forearms on the armrests should lift your arms slightly at the shoulders and relieve some of the neck and shoulder strain that accompanies extended sitting. The armrests should be at a height that puts your forearms at about a 90-degree angle to your torso.
Sitting in office chairs for extended periods of time is a static posture that puts pressure not only on the back, but the neck, shoulders, arms and legs. Ergonomic seating, whether in an ergonomic desk chair or a ball chair, can prevent discomfort and correct the natural tendency to slouch after sitting for long periods of time.
Proper monitor placement will benefit you tremendously by helping to avoid headaches caused by the strain on your eyes and neck. To find the correct monitor height, gaze forward with a neutral position of the head. Relax your eyes. The middle of your monitor should line up with your line of sight, so that your eyes are at the same height as the top of the monitor. Avoid having your head bent forward or backward, as this is what causes your eyes and neck to strain. If your monitor is not at the right ergonomic height, office supply stores stock many tools that allow you to adjust the height of your monitor.
To ensure the proper adjustment of your ergonomic desk chair, use this measuring tip: Do your fingers fit easily underneath your thighs at the front edge of the chair, just above where the knee bends? If this space is tight, you need to raise your feet. Use an adjustable footrest, or a large book will do.
Correct adjustment of your chair will help alleviate the backaches that can occur after prolonged periods of sitting.
Many jobs require people to talk on the phone as they are performing various tasks, such as writing or typing. This typically leads to poor posture as the phone is being held between the head and neck. Surely, you know the literal pain in your neck that hours on the phone can cause! Using a head set with your phone will keep your hands free while still allowing you to practice healthy spinal alignment and prevent neck pain and strain.
Ergonomics deals with the interaction of technological and work situations with the human being. Ergonomists use anatomy, physiology and psychology to identify the most productive use of human capabilities, and to then maintain human health and well-being by making sure that jobs fit the person or people who perform them. This requires taking into account differences such as size, strength and ability to handle information for a wide range of users and then designing tasks, work spaces and tools around those differences. The benefits of ergonomics include improved efficiency, quality and job satisfaction, as well as a reduced risk of fatigue, strain and job-related injury.
If you want to use an exercise ball as an office chair, sit directly on top of the ball and adjust the height of the base so your knees are lower than your hip sockets and your feet are flat on the floor. This is different from sitting in an ergonomic chair, where your knees should form a 90-degree angle. Move back and forth on the ball to find the spot that is most comfortable for you. A balance ball chair consists of a flexible vinyl ball that sits in a base like that of a traditional office chair, with wheels and the ability to swivel that makes it easy to move around a workstation.
As with any new activity, it is important to start slowly when using ball chairs. Start by sitting on the exercise ball chair for one hour or less on the first day, and add an hour each day for the first week. Take frequent breaks to stand up, move around, and stretch your upper body.
Books, papers, and other reference materials that you consult in the course of your work should also be arranged in such a way as to minimize eye and neck strain. Group items close to one another that you use at the same time, such that materials you use while looking at your monitor are beside your monitor, and so that information you might need while talking on the telephone is near to the telephone. Also consider placing materials at different heights, so that you have a “bird's eye view” of your information. There are different stands and monitor clips that can be used to fit your needs.
Even if you have an ergonomic desk chair, you must adjust it properly to achieve the best ergonomic seating for your physical proportions.
Use this elbow measurement to help: Sit close enough to your desk for your arms to be in line with your torso, and your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle when your hands are resting on your work surface, either your desk or your computer keyboard.
Repetitive use injuries, including Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, have become the scourge of office workers, students and others who spend hours working on a keyboard or laptop. If the wrist rests on the desk or the edge of the keyboard, pain may result. If the wrist is over-extended or over-flexed, there will be increased strain on the muscles, tendons and joints of the wrists. To prevent such strain, it is vital to maintain an adequate wrist position whenever you are working at a keyboard. A neutral wrist position is ideal, and that means maintaining a straight line from your forearm through your wrist and into your hand; let your fingers do the work! To help you maintain the correct position and protect your wrists, try a cushioned wrist support at the base of the keyboard. If you have shorter fingers, you may find it more comfortable to elevate the back of the keyboard while typing. If your fingers are long, try elevating the front of the keyboard while typing.
Some people find that their computer desk is too high, but when they raise their chairs to achieve a neutral typing position, their feet dangle above the floor. The act of pressing your feet against the floor or a stool is essential to help counterbalance the pressure that extended periods of sitting puts on your low back. If you can't replace the desk and a keyboard tray is not feasible to adapt your workstation so your feet reach the floor, a foot stool can help. You can buy adjustable stools where ergonomic office furniture is sold.
Repetitive motions with any part of your body in an awkward position can lead to injury. If possible, use ergonomic office furniture in your workplace. One example of good office ergonomics: Keep your keyboard in a straight line to your seat and your screen, not over to one side or the other, and keep the mouse as close to the keyboard as possible. Erognomic furniture is available from most office furniture suppliers, and online retailers.
The optimal computer desk should allow room for your legs and also for a keyboard tray if you need one to keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle. A desk surface 28-32 inches from the floor works well for most computer users, but if you are especially tall or short, adjust the height accordingly to practice office ergonomics.
If your office furniture doesn't allow you to keep your hands and wrists in a neutral position while typing, consider installing keyboard and mouse trays to improve the ergonomics in your office. Some trays fit both the keyboard and mouse together on the same piece, while others consist of two side-by-side pieces. Some keyboard trays have a built-in wrist-rest as well. Another ergonomic tip: Keep your keyboard flat or tilted slightly away from you to promote a neutral position for your hands and wrists.
If circumstances do not permit the use of an exercise ball (for example, if your desk is too low or high to accommodate a ball that is the correct size for you), there are other options which allow for an active sitting surface. Some alternatives to using a ball chair are the Swopper and the Active Disc. Both of these products allow mobility and promote good posture. The Swopper is a stool-like piece of equipment that provides all of the same benefits of the ball due to its tilting and rocking motions. The Fitterfirst Active Disc is a cushion that you can put on a standard desk chair, allowing for movement through your hips so that your body to find its optimal posture in conjunction with gravity.
An exercise ball chair combines the benefits of an exercise ball with the function of an ergonomic desk chair. Exercise ball chairs reduce stress in the body releasing pressure on the spine, strengthening the core muscles, encouraging the natural alignment of the spine, and promoting circulation. But if you have pre-existing back problems or other medical conditions, consult a doctor before purchasing an exercise ball chair.
An ergonomic desk chair should have a low back support that creates a slight arch in the low back. This is essential in an office chair, since lack of lumbar support can stress the lumbar discs. If your chair does not have this, you can buy a back support or cushion from a supplier of ergonomic office furniture and modify the chair you have, or shop for a new ergonomic chair, or maybe even an office ball chair.
An office chair that is too deep doesn't correctly support the lower back and places unnecessary stress on your lower back and legs. Try this test of your chair's depth: Can you place a clenched fist between the back of your calf and the front of the chair? If this is a tight fit, the chair is too deep; move the backrest forward or add a lumbar support or cushion.
Even if you are not doing specific exercises, simply sitting on an exercise ball engages the muscles of the abdomen and back, also known as active sitting, which builds strength and promotes good posture. Some people use a ball as a chair either at home or in an office, and specific exercise ball chairs with swivel bases exist for this purpose. But if you have a back injury or other health problems, consult your doctor before buying an exercise ball chair; an ergonomic desk chair may be more appropriate.
A Power Web is a very useful hand-strengthening tool that fits nicely into the work environment. This elastic resistance webbing takes up little space and can be used to strengthen and stretch the muscles of the forearm and hand. Use the Power Web every so often throughout your workday to get relief from the tension created by continuous typing and mousing. Keeping the hand and wrist strong and flexible can prevent the onset of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as well as other repetitive strain disorders.
If you are choosing to sit actively, it is important that you choose the right size ball and consider its durability in order to reap the most benefits. To determine the optimal ball size, sit on the ball and look for your thighs to be slightly above parallel with the ground. As you would imagine, taller people will need bigger exercise balls, while shorter people will need smaller ones. Also, make sure you can comfortably sit at your desk, without your thighs hitting the underside of the desk, and without having to raise your elbows too far above your rib cage or reach too far forward to write or type comfortably. To ensure safety, use a burst-rated ball.
Many of us sit for at least 8 hours a day at a desk that's a third of our day, and – for many of us – more than half of our waking hours! Between the tensions that we collect in our bodies due to stress, the work environment itself can create conditions that are physically limiting. At the end of the day, many people suffer from stiff joints, aching back, numb legs, wrist pain, neck pain, and headaches. Consider that your average cubical provides no room for activity, and that typing and/or mousing all day stresses the hands, wrists and forearms. Consider also that many office chairs have fixed positions, and that they can promote poor posture, and that slumping over a desk creates weak back muscles and rounded shoulders. All of these factors contribute to spending over half your day in an environment that is bad for your body. To counteract these pressures, bring activity into your workspace and incorporate ergonomic tools and dynamic exercise equipment into tour daily life.
Using a footrest is another important piece of the puzzle in maintaining good health in the workplace. The advantage of using an adjustable wobble board as a footrest is that it provides an elevated platform on which to rest the legs and alleviate pressure from the back of the leg. The mobility of the wobble board also helps to eliminate stiffness from the joints and muscles in our legs. The wobble board can be more than a footrest, too: stand on it while talking on the phone. This will add an active component to your day and also enhance your balance and proprioception.
Kneeling ergonomic chairs are among the many choices of ergonomic office chairs. A kneeling chair places you in a modified kneeling position, and your body is supported by the seat of the chair and by your shins, which are bend under you and rest on a pad with your feet pointing backward as you lean forward.
The distribution of the body's weight between the knees and the pelvis reduces the compression on the spine that occurs after extended periods of sitting in a standard chair. A kneeling chair also reduces tension in the lower back and legs for better workplace ergonomics.
Reading is an integral part of our day and should be done in a manner that allows comfort. The use of a book stand allows us to tilt the book forward so that we are not straining our necks. This is very important when we are reading for prolonged periods of time. This simple and effective tool can help create a more enjoyable experience at your desk.
Desk height is a vital aspect of workspace ergonomics as proper keyboard, monitor and phone placement all depend on the height of your desk. If at all possible, determine the appropriate height for your sitting surface BEFORE assessing and adjusting your desk height. Your desk height should allow for comfortable and easy access to the various components of your workstation. Make sure you are neither hunched over nor straining yourself to perform your work activities. Remember, adjust your workspace to your needs; do not adjust your movements to your workspace.
Where should you position your ergonomic desk chair? When you're sitting in your chair, your gaze should be at the center of the computer screen without straining your neck. To find this angle, sit comfortably in the chair and close your eyes. Slowly open them. Are you looking at the center of the screen? If not, raise or lower the screen or your ergonomic chair, or adjust both of them, to reduce strain on your neck.
Try to stand up for a minute or two every half hour when working at a computer for extended periods. Walking to the water cooler or bathroom is good, but a 20-minute walk away from the workstation is even better, since it's enough time to get your blood flowing, which will leave you feeling more relaxed.
Moving around, in addition to using an ergonomic chair or exercise ball chair, goes a long way towards easing the strain on your muscles caused by sitting at a computer workstation for extended periods of time.
To position your computer monitor at the proper angle (about even with or slightly below your gaze as you look straight ahead), you may need a monitor stand to lift the monitor higher on your work surface. Stands are available in a range of shapes and sizes from suppliers of ergonomic office furniture. Remember to choose a stand that is sturdy enough for the size and weight of your monitor. Use of a monitor stand lets you keep your eyes level with your screen and reduces strain on your neck.
Try to control what you sit on, whenever and wherever you can. You can't take your exercise ball or ergonomic chair with you everywhere, so find a good portable cushion to take along so you can sit with your body in good alignment and relieve strain on your back. It's well known that prolonged sitting puts pressure on your back.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|