What is ergonomics?
The term “ergonomics” is derived from two Greek words, “ergon,” meaning work, and “nomoi,” meaning natural laws. In simple terms ergonomics is dealing with the science behind the design and positioning of equipment in your workplace.
Why does my workplace ergonomics affect me?
The average employee may spend 6-8 hours of the work day on their computer. Add to this activities such as internet shopping, web bill paying, and email you could spend an additional 2-4 hours on your personal computer. As the time we clock up in front of computers continues to rise, it is important that we take necessary steps to minimise our exposure to musculoskeletal disorders.
Musculoskeletal disorders can develop from exposure to repetition, force and posture. So let us address these areas specifically when analysing your workspace.
Ask yourself the question: What can be done to improve my workplace ergonomics?
Setting your desk height is dependent upon the most frequent tasks you will be performing. As a general rule of thumb having the desk situated so that when you are positioned (seated or standing) at your work space, the angle of your elbow is approximately 90 degrees (forearms parallel to your work surface). However this can be adjusted depending upon your workplace activities. A slightly higher desk may be preferred for those performing large amounts of handwriting or working with computer graphics. By contrast a lower desk height may be preferred by those performing data entry tasks, extended periods of typing or tasks requiring upper body force (stamping, stapling, packing). These distinctions in desk height whilst appearing insignificant can make a difference over time in wear and tear on your body.
Monitor height is possibly the most important aspect of your ergonomic set up. Inappropriate monitor positioning strongly correlates to head and neck positioning. The top of your monitor should be approximately positioned at your eye level. This prevents excessive flexion of the neck that could result in extra strain on the muscles of the neck and shoulders. The monitor should be positioned at approximately arm’s length away or 50 to 100 cm.
If you google search ‘ergonomic chair’ you will be amazed at the endless range of new chairs that bend, tilt or rotate in ways your never would have dreamed possible. So to simplify things, let’s quickly set a criterion for necessary adjustments that a suitable chair needs.
- Adjustable seat height
- Adjustable lumbar support
- Adjustable back rest
- Adjustable arm rests
- Stable wheel base
- Head rest
There is no hard and fast rule for your chair set up. Finding a chair that fits the user comfortably is paramount.
It is important that your feet are flat on the ground with pressure distributed evenly. If your feet do not reach the floor or your seat is unable to adjust to allow this, then a foot rest is advisable. You should look for a sturdy and supportive rest. This does not mean it has to be expensive or purpose built, it can be as simple as a small stool or phone book (if anyone still has one of these?).
The keyboard should be comfortably within reach, approximately a hands width from the edge of the desk and positioned flat on the desk surface (no tilt!). If you do experience repetitive strain in the wrist or elbow it may be worthwhile looking further into the numerous ‘ergonomic keyboard’ set ups to find something that may be more suitable than your run of the mill keyboard.
Mouse positioning should be relative to the keyboard. It should be within arm’s reach. If you have to reach in any way, rotate through your torso or protract your shoulder then this is too far.
Positioning of other commonly used items is vital. If you regularly use additional devices such as calculators, phones, iPads or any other similar devices, please consider their position on your desk. Device positioning should be within arm’s length and your field of vision. Do not have commonly used devices positioned at acute angles to your body. Having a regularly used piece of equipment at a 90 degree angle to your body requires unnecessary twisting through your neck and back at every usage.
Due to the continual development of technology and the capabilities of smart phones, work is no longer a 9 am to 5 pm commitment. This means that it is not uncommon for you to find yourself working into the wee hours of the night on urgent matters. Implementing an ergonomically sound workstation at home for these occasions can be done if you consider the above points. Consider the height of your device of choice. If using a laptop, best practice is to have a docking station and secondary keyboard and mouse, allowing you to transform your workplace similarly to your one at work. If this is unavailable, or you are using an ipad or smart phone it is important to avoid holding the device too low as this places the neck in flexion which can lead to strain through the region.
With all the above in place, it is still important to be conscious of your posture. Starting with your feet, ensure they are firmly on ground. Source a foot stool if needed. Adjust your chair so that your hips above knees so upper legs angled slightly downward. Engage the lumber support, whether it be inbuilt support (ideal), a rolled up towel or cushion (still better than no support). Position the back rest angle (110 degrees is optimal).
Dr Jackson Clark (Osteopath) completed the research component of his Masters in injury prevention and ergonomic assessment. If you have musculoskeletal pain, we suggest making an appointment with Jackson so that he can assess your pain, whole body and lifestyle. If he feels your workplace set-up is a cause or contributing factor, he may then work with you to address your desk and workplace set-up to relieve, manage and prevent further pain.
Jackson is also available to assess workplace ergonomics at a corporate level by coming to your organisation, assessing each workstation and tailoring it to each individual employee. Please call 9830 7044 to discuss how Jackson may assist your organisation in this way.
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For further information, please contact:
Dr Jackson Clark
Spring Osteo Clinic
+61 3 9830 7044
About Spring Osteo Clinic
Spring is an osteopathic, clinical pilates and massage clinic located on Canterbury Road, Surrey Hills. We are available to treat your back, neck, headaches, migraines, sports injuries, pregnancy pain, postural related pain and more. We take a holistic approach to your treatment by reviewing your direct problem area as well as assessing your whole body and lifestyle. This helps us to understand the cause of the problem and find ways for you to gain immediate and long-term relief; offer preventative solutions; and equip you with pain management skills. We treat people through all stages of life including babies and children; teenagers with study strains; athletes – beginner to professional; pregnant women and new mums; tradesmen and desk bound workers with postural complaints. https://www.springosteo.com.au