The Secret To a Healthy More Ergonomic Workstation
Imagine the scenario. You’ve just started a new position in a new office. It’s the job you’ve always dreamed of. But your new workspace is far from ideal. In fact, it’s downright uncomfortable. Your chair doesn’t support your back, your computer screen is too low and your keyboard too high. And to top it all, none of your co-workers takes breaks. Ever.
After just a few weeks you’re getting pounding headaches at the end of each working day. You’re tired more often than not. Your neck, hands and wrists are starting to ache. And your stress levels feel as if they’re going through the roof. The novelty of having a new job has well and truly worn off – in fact, you’re worried you won’t have a job for much longer, thanks to the fact that your productivity has taken a nosedive.It’s an all-too-familiar story of workspace hell.
The good news is that, with proper ergonomic workstation set-up, adopting a better posture, taking regular breaks and using well-designed computer input devices – such as ergonomic computer mice and keyboards – you can make your workspace healthy.
Badly set-up workstations can lead to the overuse of muscles in the hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, back and neck. Known as overuse injuries, they are caused by repetitive movements – which explains why you may also have heard them referred to as repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) – and poor postures, with typically the head, neck, shoulders, elbow, wrists and hands affected. Symptoms of these overuse injuries include pain, swelling, stiffness of the joints, weakness and numbness.
Setting up your workspace
The best way to think about your computer workstation is as a single interactive system, rather than a series of separate components (chair, work surface, monitor, keyboard, mouse etc). That’s because the way each component is set up affects all the others – and if they’re not integrated correctly, the result is often discomfort for the user. The best workstation design depends on the operator’s anatomy, work habits and the different ways they use their computer. So the various workstation components should be adjusted to suit the needs of the user as well as the demands of the tasks they perform on a regular basis.
What can you do?
There are lots of ways to avoid muscle and joint problems in the workplace. Here are some tips to get you started;
- Sit at an adjustable desk designed for computer use
- Make sure your monitor is either at eye level or slightly lower
- Position your keyboard at a height that lets your elbows rest comfortably at your sides (your forearms should be roughly parallel with the floor and level with the keyboard)
- Adjust your chair so that your feet rest flat on the floor or use a footstool
- Use an ergonomic chair that’s designed to help your spine hold its natural curve while sitting
- Keep your hands and wrists in a natural – or neutral – position by using an ergonomic keyboard
- Take frequent short breaks and stand up, go for a walk, or do stretching exercises at your desk
Preventing hand/arm pain
Meanwhile, some of the things you can do to help protect yourself against overuse injuries of the hand or arm include the following:
- Make sure your mouse sits at the same height as your correctly positioned keyboard
- Position the mouse as close as possible to the side of your keyboard
- Use light, gentle movements when you type
- Avoid long, interrupted stretches of using your computer by stopping to do other tasks
- Take your hands off your keyboard when you’re not typing to let your arms relax