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June 09, 2017
How to set up an ergonomic workstation
By Ana Ellington, Legal Editor

Many of us spend hours at our workstations every day. Bad habits and incorrect posture can lead to neck and back pain or sore wrists and fingers. Proper ergonomics can help you stay comfortable at work.

Ergonomics is a scientific discipline, which is concerned with improving the productivity, health, safety, and comfort of people. It’s basically fitting the job to the person rather than fitting the person to the job. For example, some people would be more comfortable with slight adjustments, such as tilting the keyboard a bit or adjusting the chair or monitor. The problem is that many workers don’t understand workstation ergonomics, and so they do not realize the hazards associated with sitting at a desk for hours every day.

It is important that you adjust your workstation furniture and equipment to suit your individual needs. Here are some tips on how to set up your workstation.

A good chair provides necessary support to the back, legs, buttocks, and arms, while reducing exposures to awkward postures, contact stress, and forceful exertions.

  • Push your hips as far back as they can go in the chair.
  • Adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are equal to or slightly lower than your hips. Use a footrest if necessary.
  • Adjust the back of the chair. Make sure your upper and lower back are supported. Use inflatable cushions or small pillows if necessary. If you have an active back mechanism on your chair, use it to make frequent position changes.
  • Adjust the armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed. If your armrests are in the way, remove them.

Choosing a suitable monitor and placing it in an appropriate position helps reduce exposure to forceful exertions, awkward postures, and overhead glare. This helps prevent possible health effects such as excessive fatigue, eyestrain, and neck and back pain.

  • Center the monitor above your keyboard, directly in front of you.
  • Position the top of the monitor approximately 2 to 3 inches above seated eye level. (If you wear bifocals, lower the monitor to a comfortable reading level.)
  • Sit at least an arm’s length away from the screen, and then adjust the distance for your vision.
  • Reduce glare by careful positioning of the screen.

Keyboard and mouse
Proper selection and arrangement of the computer keyboard and mouse help reduce exposure to awkward postures, repetition, and contact stress.

  • Put the keyboard directly in front of you.
  • Keep shoulders relaxed and your elbows close to your body.
  • Maintain your wrists straight and in-line with your forearms.
  • Keep the mouse close to the keyboard.
  • Alternate hands with which you operate the mouse.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts to reduce extended use.

Telephones add to the convenience of a workstation; however, telephones have cords that can get tangled up and can cause the user to assume awkward postures. Placing the telephone too far away can cause you to repeatedly reach, resulting in strain on the shoulder, arm, and neck. And prolonged conversations with the phone pinched between your shoulder and head may cause stress and neck pain.

  • Place your telephone within easy reach. Telephone stands can help.
  • Use a headset or speakerphone for long conversations to eliminate cradling the handset.

Take a break
Once you have correctly set up your workstation, use good work habits. No matter how perfect the environment, prolonged, static postures will inhibit blood circulation and take a toll on your body.

  • Take short stretch breaks every 20 to 30 minutes. After each hour of work, take a break or change tasks for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Always try to get away from your computer during lunch breaks.
  • Avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes periodically. Look away from the monitor, and focus on something in the distance.
  • Rest your eyes by covering them with your palms for 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Use correct posture when working.
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