While most people understand that an office is a fairly safe environment, many underestimate how often accidents can occur. In fact, some of the most typical injuries that happen are the result of falls, bad posture, repetitive movements, or muscle strains.
To reduce their chance of falling victim to these types of injuries, office workers can benefit from being more careful and ensuring their work space is properly set up. Especially for those who already experience aches, strains, or back pain, here are some common ergonomic problem areas and how to address them.
Desk and Chair Setup
The central area of your work space, having a desk and/or chair that is not suited to your individual needs can become problematic. Desks or chairs that are too high or too low encourage you to work in less-than-ideal positions that then create muscle tension and lower back pain. Poorly sized chairs are uncomfortable, while desks that are the wrong size can interfere with your workflow or make you strain to reach everyday items. Similarly, desks like your typical L-shaped cubicle ones can cause you to angle your arms into awkward positions.
For your seating, choose a good ergonomic office chair that can be adjusted to your body’s needs. In general, your feet should be flat on the floor (or a footrest) and your thighs parallel to the ground when sitting. Furthermore, your chair should have a forward angle that bolsters the lumbar region of your back while encouraging you to sit in a neutral spine position.
For your desk, it should be a suitable size and shape. You can tell if it is ergonomically set up if the desk is about level with your elbows when you are seated.
Monitor Height and Distance
When staring at a screen throughout the workday, a monitor that is placed at the wrong height or distance away can cause neck strains, irritated eyes, and headaches.
In addition to taking breaks, your monitor should be adjusted so it is either center or slightly below your eye level in height. In terms of distance, make sure your monitor does not cause you to push your neck forward or backward. It should be at least 16 inches away from your face, though for many it is most ergonomic somewhere between 20 to 40 inches.
Keyboard, Mouse, and Document Placement
Poor placement of your keyboard and mouse can hurt your wrists, hands, and shoulders. Over time, this can lead to conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. Craning your neck to read and type from documents likewise strains your neck and upper body.
When typing, make sure that your wrists are aligned with your forearms and not bent or under pressure. Don’t place your mouse too far away and keep it within reach. Also, avoid working off of documents that are placed flat on your desk or off to the side.
Adjusting where you place your keyboard, mouse, or documents might be the only changes necessary. For some however, incorporating a mouse bridge, palm rest, corner extension, or document holder are also helpful tools for an ergonomic setup.