How can I make my workplace more comfortable?
As technology continues to creep into our lives in the form of video displays, keyboards, mice, PDAs and touch screens, we need to be aware of how our habits and the arrangement of our equipment can impact our comfort, health, and productivity. It is important to realize that we often use equipment in nontraditional positions and even standard workstations need to be adjusted to meet the needs of different individuals.
Knowing a few basic principles of ergonomics can help you make a few simple adjustments/modifications and allow you to customize your work situation to both increase comfort and decrease the risk of injury. Use the following guidelines to assess and make changes to your home or office work station:
- Organize your desktop so that frequently used objects are closest to you to avoid excessive extended reaching.
- When using your keyboard, position yourself so that your shoulders are relaxed and your elbows are at a 90° angle with your forearms resting on your work surface or arm rest of the chair. Also adjust your keyboard to avoid tilt so that your wrists are in a neutral (flat) position when typing.
- Place your mouse in your immediate reach zone and position yourself so that when mousing, your wrist is neutral (flat) and your forearm is able to rest on the desk.
- Position your computer monitor approximately 18-30 inches away and directly in front of you. Adjust the monitor height so that the top line of text is at eye level. If the monitor allows tilt, try a slight upward tilt to avoid further neck flexion.
- Use a headset or speakerphone to avoid neck and shoulder discomfort if you use a phone frequently throughout the day.
- The chair back should have a lumbar support. If your chair does not have a built-in lumbar support, try using a rolled up towel.
- Adjust the height of your chair so feet rest flat on floor. Sit upright in the chair with your low back against the backrest and your shoulders touching the backrest. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and knees at about the same level as the hips.
- If arm rests are adjustable, they should be the same height as your desk, allowing for a relaxed shoulder position.
- Lastly, try not to stay in one static position for extended periods of time; alternate between standing and sitting and take small breaks during the work day.
The author of this article is Amy Garman, M.Ed., ATC from NovaCare.