An Introduction to Office Ergonomics

Workplace Safety

With the rise in popularity and availability of mobile devices, an increase in postural strain is being placed on our bodies. Poor posture while using tablets, cell phones and other media place the upper body in a position of increased neck flexion with rounded shoulder posturing. This can lead to a variety of musculoskeletal issues and postural deviations. Given the length of time already spent in these postures on a daily basis, working in these postures places office workers at an even higher risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders.

For these reasons, it is important to ensure proper office ergonomics are in place. Three main areas should be assessed when considering ergonomics: chair, workstation (keyboard/mouse) and monitor. An ill-fitting chair can be the most stressful office element on spine postures. To provide the best fit, lumbar support should be available to support the curve of the lower back, and the seat pan depth and width should be adequate to support the thighs but not so long that pressure is placed behind the knees. Perching on the front of the chair without the back contacting the backrest should be avoided, as should resting the feet on chair casters. A chair that can be adjusted to fit a worker properly should be provided, as well as training to teach a worker how to achieve the best fit for themselves.

Workstations should be deep enough to accommodate a keyboard, mouse and space for reading/writing. A keyboard tray can be used to better fit a petite individual to a desk. Keyboard placement should allow for approximately 90 degree bend of the elbows. Proper height of the workstation can allow for neutral upper extremity posturing and decreased muscular stress on the neck and shoulders.

Improper monitor placement and height is a common problem. Proper monitor arrangement is dependent on the monitor’s size, how many monitors are used and the size of the font being viewed. Generally the user should be 20-30” from the monitor. Distances closer than this may cause eyestrain, and greater distances may cause the user to lean forward. Oftentimes, monitors are placed too low causing forward head posturing and increased flexion of the neck, similar to what is seen when using mobile devices. Correct monitor height should have the top of the screen at or slightly below the user’s eye level. A monitor stand can be helpful to achieve the proper height and increase space available on the workstation. When two monitors are used, they should be placed at the same height. A document holder can benefit nearly anyone, decreasing strain on the neck when referencing documents while using the computer.

While achieving proper ergonomics at your workstation is important, it should be noted that staying in any posture for prolonged periods also places increased stress on the body. It is recommended to take frequent breaks and change positions to avoid fatigue and strain on the body.
If you are concerned that your workstation does not fit you well or if you are experiencing pain or discomfort while working, evaluation by Job Ready Services staff can help improve your ergonomics and lessen strain on your body while working. Call Job Ready Services at 919-256-1400 or email us at