It may come as a surprise that the arrangement of your office – whether at home or at work – can affect your health. A supportive desk chair and proper placement of the computer monitor, mouse and keyboard are important to maintain good health and to promote more efficient work throughout the day.
Coordinating the design and placement of devices and furniture to maintain proper posture and body positioning of the user is known as “ergonomics.” There are certain things you can do to increase the ergonomic characteristics of your office, which can help you become more productive and reduce or eliminate the awkward positioning that can lead to arm, shoulder, back and neck pain, straining of the eyes and fatigue.
The first thing you can do to make your office more ergonomic is to ensure that your computer monitor is the proper distance from your eyes. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), when you are seated at your desk and facing your computer monitor, the screen should be between 20 and 40 inches from your eyes. The top line of the screen should also be at or below your eye level.
The second tools to address are your keyboard and mouse. Your keyboard should be directly in front of you at your desk. When resting your fingers on the keys, your shoulders should be relaxed. Using a keyboard that is either too high or too low can cause awkward positioning of the wrist and shoulders.
Computer mice come in all different sizes and shapes. Make sure your mouse fits your hand comfortably and that it is positioned so you’re not stretching your arm or twisting/bending your wrist to use it.
OSHA considers the desk chair to be an essential element of a safe and productive office environment. There are four components to consider when adjusting your desk chair to fit your body: The backrest, the seat, the base and the armrests. Spine-Health.com warns that “over time, incorrect sitting posture can damage spinal structures and contribute to or worsen back and neck pain,” so a chair that promotes good posture is important.
The backrest should offer sufficient support to your lower back to maintain the S-curvature of your spine. The seat should be adjustable in height, and should offer sufficient cushioning. Check the weight rating of the chair and be sure it’s appropriate for your body size. Inappropriately sized seats can restrict movement and lead to leg and back discomfort. If your chair has adjustable armrests, position them so they adequately support your lower arm and allow you to keep your upper arms close to your torso and your shoulders relaxed. For those chairs without adjustable armrests, if the armrests are currently in an uncomfortable position, you can remove them or just avoid using them until you can update your office with a chair that has adjustable rests.
Your chair should have at least a four-legged base; a five-legged base is the best option. A three-legged base can be too unstable and can tip easily. The base should also have wheels/casters to ensure easy movement around your workspace.
Using these tips to help better arrange your office to your personal body type will help you to be more comfortable and more productive in whatever you do.
For more on OSHA’s guidelines for a more ergonomic office, visit www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/index.html.