Ergonomics and You

 Most of us use a computer in our daily work activities. Sometimes we may feel like our computer and workstation are adversely affecting our health. Did you know there are adjustments you can make to your workstation to make it more comfortable and a better “fit”? These adjustments are often referred to as ergonomics, matching the worker to the workstation.
Think of your computer, your phone and other devices as tools. Like tools for car repair or woodworking, there is a proper and safe way to use your tools. The most important consideration is working in neutral positions, postures that put the least amount of stress on your body. Yes, Mom was correct – posture matters.

office ergonomicsThink Alignment!

A helpful visual is to imagine a line that runs from your head to your feet. When standing, you should be able to see a straight line from ear to shoulder to hip to knee to ankle. When sitting, the line will be from your ear to your hip. Take a moment to see if your shoulders are “squared” and relaxed, if your head is centered between your shoulders, if your back is straight. Many times, especially as the day progresses, you may notice your shoulders are tensed or your head is pulled forward to focus on your monitor. You may slouch down in your chair or lean back and extend your arms to use the keyboard. Perhaps your monitor is off to one side, requiring you to turn your head to see your work. Twisting, reaching, slouching all take you out of a neutral position and place a strain on your muscles. Over time you may begin to feel that strain.

What can you do?

First, remove all unnecessary items and clutter from your desktop. This will give you the space you need to properly relocate your tools. Second, adjust your chair so that you are able to work at your desk in a neutral position. This means your shoulders remain relaxed, your forearms are raised to about a 90 degree angle and your hands “float” over the keyboard. You may discover you need a foot rest to provide your feet with a solid foundation. After you get your chair to a proper height, move your monitor to a point on your desk where you can see it clearly without pulling your head out of neutral. You may need to elevate it a bit. Bring your keyboard or mouse close to you. If you use your phone frequently, also bring it closer to you. Items you use infrequently should be further back on your desk.

Variety is Key

Finally, vary your tasks. Take “micro” breaks and stretch. We’ve added some links to stretches that you can do in your office or at your desk. Take the stairs when you can. Maintain a healthy lifestyle (nutrition, sleep, exercise). Ergonomics is adjusting your work/tasks to minimize the strain on your muscles. Many times, the solution is simple rearrangement of your workstation. If you need additional help, please let your supervisor know.  Human Resources and Employee Health at your company may also provide resources for you.


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