Ergonomics is a word that is often used when purchasing office furniture, but what does it mean and how to increase your employees well-being and productivity through ergonomics? Here's a quick guide to help you and your team maximise safe work performance.
What is ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the study of the interactions between people and their efficiency in their environment. In other words, ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace while keeping in mind the interactions of employees with their environment and their capabilities and limitations.
Why is ergonomics important?
With many employees spending between 7 and 12 hours at their desk every day, it is important that the environment they sit at is designed to improve their well-being and minimise the risk of work-related injuries such as lower back pain or other musculoskeletal injuries associated with prolonged work periods and a poor posture.
An effective ergonomic workplace is also proven to reduce costs, improve productivity, quality of work, employees engagement and create a better safety culture.
How to set up an ergonomic workstation?
1. Your chair
- Push your hips as far back as they go in the chair
- Adjust the seat height so that your feet sit flat on the floor. You may need to place your feet on a footrest to avoid your feet dangling.
- Your knees should be at a 90 degree or wider angle
- The back of your chair should be reclined at a 100-110 degree angle
- Adjust the back rest so that it supports your lower back
- Adjust your chair's armrests so that you shoulders are relaxed and your forearms lay horizontally
- Certain chairs also offer seat tilt adjustment. Adjust the tilt to feel comfortable, which is usually close to horizontal but you may prefer to sit slightly tilted forward
2. Your mouse and keyboard
- Position your keyboard close and directly in front of your body
- Determine which section of your keyboard you use the most and ensure this section is centred with your body
- Your forearms must be close to the horizontal
- Adjust the keyboard height so that your shoulders are relaxed and your wrists and hands are straight and not bent up.
- Adjust the tilt of your keyboard using the keyboard feet. If you sit in a forward or upright position, you should tilt your keyboard away from you at a negative angle. If you sit in a reclined position, a slight positive tilt of your keyboard will help keep your wrists straight
- Place the mouse as close as possible to your keyboard to avoid reaching out
3. Your monitor, phone and documents
- Set up your monitor directly in front of you so that the top of the screen is slightly below and no higher than eye level
- Watch your head position and keep it directly above your neck, avoiding neck flexing
- Set your screen at a distance that allows you to focus easily. This will usually be an arm's length away
- Place your phone within reach and avoid cradling the handset between your ear and your shoulder. It is best to use a headset or hand-free kit if you a re going to use the computer and the phone simultaneously
- If you use a document holder, place it as close as possible to the screen to minimise the twisting or inclination of the head
Once you have correctly set up your workstation to sit in the most ergonomically friendly position, it is also important to know that it is not healthy to maintain the same position for too long and that regular breaks should be taken:
- Take a short 1-2 min breaks every 20 to 30 minutes to stretch
- Every hour, you should change task or take a break for 5-10 minutes
- Rest your eyes regularly to avoid fatigue by looking away from your monitor and focusing on something in the distance or by covering your eyes with your palms for 10-15 seconds
- Use a correct posture and keep moving as much as possible.
Height adjustable workstations are also a great alternative to fixed height workstations allowing the user to alternate between a sitting and a standing working position throughout the day, promoting blood circulation, muscle stretching and activity.