Ergonomics is defined as designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely.  In the office, applying good ergonomics can reduce the stress placed on your body which will reduce your risk for an injury.  With a little knowledge of the basic principles, anyone can look around their work space and make improvements in reducing stress and strain.

1. The chair

The most important item in your workspace is your chair.  A properly adjusted chair can make a big difference.  The height of your chair can be adjusted so your feet rest flat on the floor or on a foot rest.  The seat pan should be adjusted so it is not hitting you in the back of the knees and slightly tipped forward to shift weight onto your feet and off your tailbone.  The back can be adjusted so the lumbar support hits you in the curve of your low back.  The back rest should be straight up or slightly tipped back.  Avoid the temptation to allow it to recline back, this causes slouching and puts you too far from your keyboard causing added stress to your back, neck and shoulders.

2. The Monitor

Next, the monitor should be adjusted so the top of the monitor is at or slightly below eye level.  If you wear bifocals you may need the monitor lower to put things in focus.  The monitor should only be an arm distance away. If you cannot touch your monitor, it is too far away.

3. The keyboard and frequently used items

The keyboard should be directly in front of you and easily reached with your elbows at your sides and at nearly 90 degrees. The items you use most frequently (i.e. phone, pens, stapler) should be within easy reach. If you use a phone a lot, make sure you are using a hands free headset. Laptops should only be used for short periods of time.  Instead, dock your laptop and use a traditional keyboard, mouse and monitor. The sit/stand Ergotrons (standing desks) can be beneficial in allowing you to change positions throughout the day.  If you have an Ergotron, make sure you have a mat to stand on.

4. Don't forget good posture

Now that you have your workstation ergonomically set up, you need to make sure you are in good posture to minimize the stress on your body. 

  • Sit or stand up straight
  • Press low back against the lumbar support
  • Do not sit on or cross your legs
  • Keep your shoulders back and head over your shoulders

5. Remember to move

Your body is designed to move, so take time to change positions.  Get up and go the restroom, get a drink of water, or take a mini stretch break to help relieve stress and tension.

If you have questions, visit with your health care professional. Madonna TherapyPlus provides occupational health services like ergonomic and job site evaluations. Call Bob Lueke at 402.434.5905 to find out more.