What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the study of customising a workplace to a user’s requirements – essentially fitting the workplace to the worker. The better the fit the higher the level of safety, comfort, and worker efficiency. Simply defined, “ergonomics is the study of how one’s body interacts with the environment when you perform a task or activity”.
Office ergonomics focuses on workstation arrangements to fit the individual’s needs and includes the choice and placement of equipment such as the desk, computer monitor, chair, keyboard and mouse.
Addressing the ergonomic set-up can improve the user’s posture and comfort, reducing conditions associated with long hours spent in a sustained position. Addressing ergonomics in the workplace is an essential and easy way to improve employee wellness and productivity.
The modern-day office
With the development of technology, many of us have unfortunately become office and deskbound and will continue to be for many years. Researchers suggest that computing has become a significant part of daily work activity. Some of the concerning statistics include:
- 93% of workers in the US use a computer for more than four hours a day.
- The average adult now spends 50% – 70% of the day sitting at work.
It is common knowledge that smoking isn’t healthy, however, sitting may be as harmful to your health as smoking. Every hour of sitting cuts about 22 minutes from your life expectancy. By contrast, it is estimated that smokers shorten their lives by approximately 11 minutes per cigarette¹.
What do we offer at Ergonomicsdirect?
Ergonomicsdirect is constantly seeking creative ways to change the way that people look at office ergonomics. We offer a comprehensive range of specialist ergonomic equipment for office and home working environments. We source our ergonomic products from several recognised and leading global suppliers. When it comes to our products, we:
- Strive to offer an extensive range of products and brands to offer solutions that fit both your individual workspace requirements as well as your budget.
- Only stock products that have passed critical analysis by our experts and met our own strict product quality standards.
- We also offer Ergonomic Office Workstation Assessments as well as talk and information sessions on Ergonomics. (please refer to the Ergonomic services page)
Guidelines for a more Ergonomic Workplace
Research has repeatedly confirmed that office ergonomics can improve worker productivity and well-being. Employees polled have themselves admitted that they would be more pleasant to work with, more productive, and less stressed if the workspace was made more comfortable.
Below is a “Quick Fix” Ergonomic Makeover guideline for Your Workspace
Support for your back
An employer may or may not provide ergonomic seating. It is ideal if your chair has built-in, adjustable lumbar (lower back) support. Otherwise, the use of an external backrest will assist with creating lower back support.
Correct support of your feet is a critical part of sitting more comfortably and supporting your back. Most users working at a standard desk height requires a footrest to sit comfortably and correctly. Correct support of your feet will ensure that you are able to fully utilise the back support that your chair offers.
Adjust your view
Your laptop/desktop screen should be around 60cm away from you, roughly an arms’ length, with the top of the screen at eye level or slightly below. If you’re still straining your eyes to read on your computer screen, you might need to consider increasing the font size of the display.
Clear the space under your desk
A crowded area under your desk means that your legs are cramped and uncomfortable. Most desk users require a footrest to ensure that their feet are well supported.
Use your chair correctly:
You will not be able to utilise an ergonomic chair to its fullest unless you know how to operate the adjustable features correctly. To adjust your task chair, follow the steps:
- Sitting in the chair, raise or lower the seat so that your feet are flat on the floor or on a footrest. Your knee angle should be at 90° or preferably slightly more, with your knees slightly lower than your hips.
- If your feet do not reach the floor after you have adjusted your chair height, you need to use a footrest to ensure that your feet are correctly supported.
- Sit as far back in the chair as possible and adjust the backrest height or lumbar support so that it fits into the curve in your lower back.
- If you can adjust the seat pan depth, ensure that a closed fist fits between your knee and the front edge of the seat.
- Adjust the backrest angle to achieve a torso-to-thigh angle of 90-110 degrees (have someone else look at you from the side).
- Adjust the armrest height so that your elbows are at a 90° angle (or slightly more) and importantly, at desk height. If the armrests swivel, place the armrests in line with your forearm when you are using the mouse.
- Remember to take movement breaks throughout the day to help relieve muscle tension and improve blood circulation.
Keyboard & Mouse
It is important to correctly position your keyboard and mouse to prevent overuse injuries. To properly position your keyboard and mouse, follow these steps:
- Adjust the height of the keyboard platform (or chair if there is not an adjustable platform), so that your shoulders are relaxed, and your elbow angle is 90 degrees or slightly greater.
- Centre yourself so that you are aligned with both the keyboard and mouse, depending on what is most frequently used. Position the mouse as close as possible to the keyboard to avoid rotating the shoulder.
- Adjust the angle of the keyboard platform slightly downward in a negative tilt if you can. This will help to keep your wrists straight (very few workstations, unfortunately, 0ffer this adjustability).
- Do not position the mouse where you need to stretch to reach it. A mouse pad is a handy way to reduce “mouse drifting”.
Proper monitor positioning is important in avoiding vision and neck problems. Follow these steps:
- 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.
- The monitor should be directly in front of you, aligned with the area of the keyboard that you use most.
- Adjust contrast and brightness to your personal needs to reduce eyestrain.
- Look away from your screen periodically – focus on a distant object to exercise and relax your eye muscles.
Reference documents, especially when used frequently, should not be placed flat on the work surface. Instead, make use of a document holder. Traditional holders position the document adjacent to the monitor, however, there are models that allow the user to place several items directly between your keyboard and monitor, avoiding awkward neck postures and maximizing productivity.
In a general office environment, the recommended lighting level for computer work is 500 lux. These lighting levels can be adjusted for personal preference, and paperwork may be augmented by task lighting.
Glare is the main lighting concern when working with computers. To help minimize glare.
- Position monitors parallel to overhead lights and perpendicular to the windows.
- Ensure the wall colour is neutral (not too bright).
- Remove or cover shiny surfaces and objects.
- Use blinds or curtains to minimize window glare.
- Install diffusers on overhead fluorescent lights.
- Use incandescent task lights over source documents.
Setting up a laptop workstation
Laptops are a popular and often necessary addition to the traditional office. However, the attributes that make laptops so portable also create ergonomic hazards that users should be aware of. The main concerns with laptop use are the fact that the keyboard and the screen are contained in one unit. This goes against the ergonomic principle that the keyboard should be located at elbow height and the top of the screen at eye level.
Using a laptop in an awkward posture can cause discomfort and musculoskeletal injury. Laptops should therefore be used with an external keyboard and mouse – effectively turning your laptop into a desktop. Ensure that you use a laptop stand to raise the top of your laptop screen to eye level.
When using an external monitor with your laptop, position all components correctly by using a monitor stand or monitor arm to ensure the correct height of the screen.
- Lima, T. & Coelho, D. (2011). Prevention of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in office work: A case study. IOS Press. Work 39 (2011) 397–408.
The new ergonomic regulations came into effect from the 6th December 2019. Companies have until June 2021 to comply.
The new ergonomic legislation requires employees in summary to:
- Perform ergonomic risk assessments of all jobs that may pose an ergonomic risk to staff before the commencement of work, by a competent person.
- All employees must be trained on the new legislation, the current ergonomic risks in their workplace, and the effects this could have on their health.
- Refresher training must occur at intervals determined by the health and safety department.
- All personnel who are deemed to be exposed to high ergonomic risks must be placed under medical surveillance which needs to commence within 30 days of employment and is monitored no less than every 2 years.
- Records must be kept for a minimum of 40 years.
- Employees themselves are compelled by the legislation to comply with any instruction given by their employer or employer’s representative regarding actions to follow pertaining to ergonomic risks and their control.