Ergonomics in the Office: Tips for a Healthier and More Comfortable Workstation

Ergonomics in the Office: Tips for a Healthier and More Comfortable Workstation

Optimizing workstation ergonomics can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders and promote a more comfortable work environment.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Sitting is the new smoking.” As funny and weird as it may sound, this shocking analogy aims to emphasize just how bad sedentarism is and how it can affect worker health in ways similar to that of smoking. Okay, so now, ergonomics, blah blah…what’s all that have to do with me?

Well, a lot, actually. For any worker who has ever ended a workday with an agonizing backache or a throbbing headache, it’s not just because of that unfinished presentation or that annoying colleague. It could be due to a poor workstation arrangement.

What Exactly Is Ergonomics?

Derived from two Greek words—“ergon,” meaning “work,” and “nomos,” meaning “laws”—it literally translates to “the laws of work” or “the science of work.” In more usual terms though, ergonomics is about optimizing a workspace to be both comfortable and efficient.

Now that the semantics are sorted out, ergonomics is about fitting the workspace to the worker rather than forcing adaptation to a poorly designed environment. It can reduce the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis and even increase productivity.

7 Tips for an Ergonomic Workspace

Here are some tips to help workers create a healthier, comfortable and safer workstation:

  1. Proper posture. It’s more than just sitting up straight; it’s also about alignment and positioning while conducting work activities. Remember that, every worker is still a human (not an office hunchback of the future). So workers need to sit back in the chair straight against the chair’s spine and avoid slouching. To maintain this posture, workers should focus on distributing body weight evenly over the entire seat and avoid leaning too heavily on either side. This keeps strain and stress away from specific body parts, minimizing risk of lingering pains.
  2. Monitor height. Workers should keep the desktop or laptop at eye level (about two to three inches from the top of the monitor casing). Aim for a 20 to 40-inch distance between the worker’s eyes and their screen to protect eyes and avoid neck strain. If your monitor's height isn’t adjustable, use sturdy objects or even a stand to elevate it. If it is a two- monitor setup, remember to position them at the same height and close together so that you don’t break that eye-neck line.
  3. Keyboard placement. Sure, workers love smashing those keys—especially when the boss is around—to make them look like a one-person department. However, the placement of the keyboard can contribute to a lot of body discomfort or relief during work hours. Place the keyboard directly in front of the worker and keep it about an arm’s length away. The ideal scenario would have them bend their elbows about 90 degrees while typing and keep our wrists straight, not straining upwards.
  4. Comfy chairs. Chairs should be chairs, not wooden racks or plastic bus stop benches disguised as seating solutions (looking at you, budget folding chair). Invest time in finding an office chair that offers good lumbar support and a cradle-shaped backrest that provides workers with dynamic spine support. A good working office chair should let workers adjust its height so that both feet touch the ground without exerting pressure on the rear side of the knees. If buying new chairs isn’t feasible right now, consider using a cushion to support your lower back instead.
  5. Regular breaks. This may be the one piece of advice no hardworking human ever wants to hear, but even for the most dedicated worker, taking breaks is a critical aspect of maintaining a healthy life.Throughout the day, workers need time to stand up, stretch their limbs and move around. Even a quick stroll or stepping away from the monitor for five to 10 minutes can help soothe strained eyes and tired muscles.
  6. Proper lighting. Poor lighting leads to eyestrain and headaches, which workers definitely don’t want when trying to solve that complicated spreadsheet or compose that important email. To reduce glare, always position the computer screen perpendicular to windows or light fixtures. If necessary, add task lights but avoid direct illumination, which causes harsh shadows and extreme contrast levels.
  7. Desk organization. Clutter isn’t just distracting; it also encourages bad ergonomics. When there are tons of objects lying on a desk, workers naturally shift into all sorts of awkward positions trying to reach for that file or pen. Organize the desk so that all commonly used items remain close at hand. This not only helps keep the workspace clean but also helps prioritize health and well-being while maintaining good posture, as workers aren’t reaching out too far and straining themselves.

After the Ergonomic Desk Setup Is Ready, Then What?

Congrats on making the working conditions friendlier and healthier through ergonomics. But what can you and your workers do to maintain it? Here are some tips:

  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise not only keeps the body fit, but it also builds a better posture over time. Simple routines like neck rotations, shoulder shrugs and hand stretching can serve as mini breaks during work hours.
  • Be consistent. Healthy practices thrive on consistency. Keep adjusting and adapting the ergonomic setup per comfort needs and changing health dynamics. It’s an evolving process, just like one’s career.
  • Keep things clean. Due to everyday use, eating in the workspace—don’t deny it— or rushing to meet a deadline, a workspace can quickly become a hub for critters like roaches. While there are multiple ways of getting roaches out of furniture, cleanliness paves the way for a pest-free environment in the first place.
  • Prioritize well-being. Humans are capable beings, but know that there will always be limitations to what our bodies can accomplish at a particular time. Resist the temptation to overstay at work or push beyond physical limits just to meet a deadline.

The Path to a Healthier Work Life

A minor tweak here, an adjustment there, a lumbar pillow for the chair, and you and your workers will be on the way to a healthier, more productive workstation. Ergonomics isn’t about filling a workspace with some expensive furniture and devices but making some thoughtful changes to ensure no one is compromising health for productivity. After all, in the long run, productivity will be improved when workers are more comfortable while getting the job done.

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