Frequently Asked Questions
Ergonomics comes from the Greek words for work (Ergo) and laws (Nomos). It is the science of how people work and interact with their environment.
In the workplace, ergonomics focuses on preventing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) through evaluating and improving the design of the work environment. The main goal of ergonomics is to design the job to better fit the worker.
With a proper office ergonomics program in place, organisations can proactively protect their employees from injuries that hurt their job performance, which has a wide-ranging effect on multiple fronts. By keeping employees healthy through an office ergonomics program, some of the major benefits include:
- Improving Productivity
- Improving employee performance
- Cutting organisational costs
- Creating a trusted, engaged work environment
Yes, definitely! There are often poor ergonomic choices for the computer user at home, yet, the consequences of fatigue and repetitive stress are no less than in the office environment.
Home computers are often used by a number of people in the family, from children to grandparents. A height adjustable monitor arm, laptop stand or sit-stand workstation allows for flexibility/adjustability for the various users, providing ergonomic comfort and safety.
- Awkward sitting positions.
- Sustained postures.
- Repetitive motions.
- Poor lighting.
- Temperature extremes.
- Insufficient breaks.
- Heavy lifting.
The most common ergonomic symptoms in the office include:
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers.
- Joint swelling, stiffness, or inflammation.
- Muscle weakness, tightness, spasms, cramping, or pain.
- Shoulder, neck, or back pain or discomfort.
- Range of motion or grip strength loss.
- Shooting or stabbing pains through the arms or legs.
Many studies show that ergonomics programs have wide-ranging benefits to the individual and the workplace and that they pay for themselves through:
- Decreased pain and discomfort levels
- Improved health and wellbeing
- Improved safety in the workplace
- Increased staff productivity levels
- Increased job satisfaction
- Improved morale and teamwork
- Lower absenteeism and staff turnover
No. You should try to vary your activities and position during the day to stimulate circulation and rest overworked muscles. You should take frequent “mini-breaks” of a few minutes each hour. You can use these breaks to do some filing or stretches, tidy up your office, or go for a short walk.
The use of a height adjustable desk to alternate between sitting and standing when required can have a significant impact on your ability to reduce muscle strain and work more comfortably.
Movement improves circulation. You should change your position as frequently as possible by adjusting your hips, moving your feet, lifting your arms and just slightly altering your posture continuously during your workday. You should also take frequent breaks and have a stretch or walk around the office.
Laptop use has significantly increased in the workplace. However, their connected keyboards and screens defy all accepted recommendations for ergonomic computing! Research is consistently demonstrating a relationship between laptop computing and poor posture, increased neck flexion angles, neck tilting and stress, lower productivity and musculoskeletal conditions.
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries and illnesses to the soft tissues and bones of the body. They include muscle strains, ligament sprains, joint and tendon inflammation, low-back pain, and certain nerve disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) are conditions in which:
- The work environment and performance of work contribute significantly to the condition; and/or
- The condition is made worse or persists longer due to work conditions.
Occupational risk factors for WMSDs include repetitive motions performed while doing a job.
In an office work environment, common risk factors include:
- Working in a static posture (holding the body or a body part in one position) for long periods of time.
- Performing repetitive movements (e.g., data entry) for continuous periods.
- Working in an awkward posture (e.g., typing with the wrist in a flexed posture, viewing a computer monitor with the head tilted back, etc.) for long periods of time.
- Placing contact stress.
Taking short, frequent stretching and recovery breaks every 30 minutes helps reduce static loading (holding the body or body parts in one position with little or no movement) and repetitive work and allows the body to recover throughout the day, reducing fatigue and overuse.
You should keep the most frequently used items within easy arm’s reach and on the side of your dominant hand. Avoid awkward reaching, bending, or stretching to reach frequently used items.
The key to ergonomic task seating is adjustability, since the chair should fit the largest percentage of employees no matter what their height, weight, or body type.
All chairs should have these minimum requirements in order to be considered an ergonomic chair:
Seat Height Adjustment – You should be able to adjust your seat height so that your knees are a little lower than your hips, with your feet resting flat on the floor.
Seat Pan Depth Adjustment (seat slider) – This allows you to adjust the depth of your seat so that you have about 5cm between the front edge of your seat and the back of your knee to allow for both leg support and blood flow.
Back Rest Height Adjustment – The ability to adjust the height of your chair back allows you to position the contours of the back cushion for optimal back support.
Back Angle Adjustment – This allows you to fine tune the back for a comfortable position. We recommend you change positions throughout the day or leave the back angle unlocked and rock back and forth.
Back Tilt Tension Adjustment – The tension knob lets you adjust the pressure needed to rock back in your chair.
Arm Support Adjustment – At a minimum, chair arms should be height adjustable. Optimally the arms are also width adjustable and/or offer a pivot so you can place the arm pads where they support you best while typing.
Quality Casters – Often overlooked, but this is important, as your entire body weight is supported by one or two casters when entering and exiting your chair. Cheaper casters break often.
Stable Wheel Base – Minimum five-spoke caster base.
Lumbar Support – The lumbar support needs to be adjustable to place in the correct position. Sometimes this is accomplished by changing the chair back height. Ideally the lumbar is independently height adjustable. On some chairs, the depth and/or pressure of the lumbar support is also adjustable.
Headrest Adjustment – A headrest is not a requirement for an ergonomic chair, but if you have a headrest, it needs to be adjustable to fit you properly.
Everyone should have lumbar support. If the backrest of your chair does not support this area, you should consider adding an external lumbar support.
Although use of excercise balls for office seating has become popular in the last few years, long-term use of a ball as a replacement for an ergonomic task chair is not recommended.
Fitness balls should not be used long term in place of an ergonomic chair for several reasons:
- Since the user’s core group of muscles have to be active in order for the user to balance on the ball while seated, these muscles may become overused or fatigued during an eight-hour shift.
- Using a therapy ball exclusively for seated work does not provide back support, which is essential to support the core muscles so that they can relax and recover.
- Fitness balls cannot easily be adjusted to the proper keyboard/mouse height.
The rule of thumb is that the top of the screen should be at eye level. The distance to the screen should be about an arm’s length (45 to 60 cm). Placing the monitor too far or too close can lead to eyestrain. This is also applicable when using a laptop. Use a laptop stand with sufficient height adjustability to achieve this positioning. Remember to use an external keyboard and mouse with your laptop stand.
Yes. Mouse position should be on the same level as the keyboard so that mouse use does not create a twisted or reaching posture.
If you find that your mouse is often “drifting” (sliding too far away on the table while you are using it), the use of a mouse pad can assist as a gentle reminder to keep you mouse in the correct position.
When positioned correctly, a wrist rest helps encourage a neutral wrist position where the forearms, wrists, and hands are in a straight line.
Without wrist rests, people often rest their wrists on a sharp desk edge or on the hard edge of a keyboard tray. This can create pressure points that aggravate hand and wrist problems.
A mixture of fluorescent and incandescent light is usually most pleasing. The most important aspect of lighting is to reduce glare and bright reflections from your screen, nearby glass, or shiny surfaces. Since light conditions change during the day this may require several adjustments while working.
The recommendation is a minimum of once every two years. When you make an appointment with your eye care professional, you should mention that you work at a computer. They may want to know how much time you spend at the computer and how far your monitor is from your eyes. If you are a heavy computer user, they may offer you glasses that are designed for computer work.
- Improves Circulation-sitting at your desk for long periods of time eventually results in poor circulation. However, using a footrest decreases the chance of developing circulatory issues.
- Reduces Lower Back pain – back problems significantly impact productivity. Footrests improve posture and reduce back pain by facilitating more ergonomic postural angles through the entire body.
- Better Posture – Footrests prevent computer-work and posture-related musculoskeletal disorders by elevating feet and legs to a comfortable, healthy height.
- Increased comfort levels – The simple addition of a footrest can reduce strain and promote better posture, while also preventing leg discomfort.
If your chair is adjusted to the correct height ratio to your desk and your feet aren’t flat on the floor, you should consider using a footrest. Footrests can also help individuals who has experienced issues with their positioning or who is suffering from lower back pain, with keeping their lower backs positioned against the backrest of their chair.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a specific, severe and debilitating form of RSI which describes a squeezing of the median nerve as it runs into the hand. The nerve is squeezed by swollen tendons surrounding it as they cross through a bony passage (The Carpal Tunnel) at the inside of the wrist.