Ergonomics has become sort of a buzz word in office culture. But what exactly does it mean? According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, it’s “the study of working conditions, especially the design of equipment and furniture, in order to help people work more efficiently”.
It is estimated that over half of workers were unexpectedly sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees now commute to a coffee table, kitchen counter, or a bedroom folding table setup rather than the office or workstation they once called home. These makeshift workspaces often are constructed with little thought of ergonomics.
Ergonomics are important to consider because when you feel your best, both mentally and physically, you work your best. Ergonomics applies to all industries of work, like construction, healthcare, and retail, but today, we will be focusing on jobs which require people to sit in front of a computer for most of their day either in an office or at home.
Here are three core aspects of ergonomics to consider as you sit down for work each day:
Seating sets the foundation for your work productivity. Many times, I remember reading college textbooks on my dorm room bed and falling asleep mid-read. You want to be comfortable, but not too comfortable!
Having the proper seating can make or break your work day. If you don’t have one already, I suggest using an ergonomic office chair. For a chair to be considered ergonomic, it must be adjustable to fit different body sizes and needs.
Key features to consider when shopping for an ergonomic chair are:
- Adjustable seat height
- Adjustable arm rests
- Adjustable seat depth
- Back and neck support
- Reclining capabilities
Ergonomic chairs help keep you comfortable so you can focus more easily on your work and not get distracted with discomfort from a poorly designed chair. Set yourself up for success with a solid seating foundation.
How many times did you hear growing up to sit up straight? Sitting posture plays an important role in proper ergonomics. Poor posture can lead to fatigue and muscle aches which results in decreased motivation. Here are a few tips to help with sitting posture:
- Studies have found that sitting at a perfect 90-degree angle is actually not the best for posture. Experts recommend sitting with a straight back at a 100-to 110-degree angle (think lazy-boy seating).
- Keep neck upright to minimize pressure being exerted from the weight of your head.
- Keep feet flat on the ground and not dangling; avoid crossing legs which hinders blood pressure. Use a footrest if needed.
- Get your body moving at least once an hour for a few minutes. It can be as simple as checking the mail, getting a glass of water, or stretching.
Working at a computer, we often find ourselves making repetitive movements throughout the day, like moving your wrist to operate a mouse. Although this is such a small movement, it can have negative effects, like increased joint pain, if done in poor ergonomic form for hours each day. Consider these tips to help with computer posture and eye fatigue:
- Adjust the height of your monitor/laptop so it’s eye level with a stand or riser. If using a laptop, use an external keyboard and mouse to avoid wrist extension when typing.
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes spent looking at the computer screen, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away to help reduce eye strain.
- Keep wrist at a straight neutral position when typing. Use a wrist pad if needed when using the keyboard or mouse.
- Adjust chair height so that elbows form a 90- to 100-degree angle with your desk or table.
If working from home is in fact here to stay, we must make considerations on how support this new work style with innovative ergonomics solutions and programs that promote comfort, wellness, and productivity. It is nearly impossible to find a one size fits all ergonomic solution that accommodates smaller spaces found in each of our homes, but let’s start small. By making a few impactful adjustments to your work environment and a developing simple ergonomic habits, you will be sure to see a rise in productivity, engagement, and health!
1. “Slouching Not So Bad After All?”. NPR, 29 November 2006, (www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6553644) Accessed 10 May 2021.
2. Madell, Robin. “The Essential Guide to Ergonomics in the Workplace”. FlexJobs, 24 January 2020, (www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/workplace-ergonomics-v2/) Accessed 10 May 2021.
3. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, (www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/ergonomics?q=ergonomics) Accessed 10 May 2021.