Researchers estimate that nearly 80 percent of jobs today are sedentary or require only light activity. The result of this shift in physical exertion during the workday is more back, shoulder, neck and hand pain, and a sizable decrease in caloric burn during office hours. This trend demands our attention in regard to the ergonomics of our environment and our effort to take beneficial breaks.
Anna Marsh-Belote, Parkview’s Director of Safety and Emergency Preparedness, shares this guide to making your desk safer and more comfortable. She encourages everyone to apply this information toward making simple adjustments to improve the flow and comfort of your workstation and increase your personal awareness.
- To reduce glare and eyestrain, your computer monitor should be positioned at a right angle to any windows in your office. Shield or move the light source to eliminate direct glare, or reduce indirect glare by moving the light source, moving the monitor, changing the monitor angle or using a filter.
- Use blinds to control incoming light.
- Keep the monitor screen clean.
KEYBOARD, MOUSE AND POSTURE
- When using the keyboard or mouse, make sure that the upper arm and elbow are as close to the body and as relaxed as possible; avoid overreaching. The keyboard and mouse should be as close to the body as possible.
- Make sure that you can reach the keyboard keys with your wrists as flat as possible (not bent up or down) and straight (not bent left or right). Also, make sure that the wrist is as straight as possible when the mouse is being used. Soft wrist rests at approximately the same height as the keyboard space bar and/or mouse may assist in keeping the wrists in a neutral position. Lowering the back legs on the underside of the keyboard might also help keep the wrists neutral while typing.
- Keyboard support surfaces should be wide enough (minimum 30 inches) to accommodate the keyboard and the mouse.
- Make sure that your elbow angle (the angle between the inner surface of the upper arm and the forearm) is at or greater than 90 degrees to avoid nerve compression at the elbow.
- Arms and wrists should not be rested against a hard and/or sharp surface. Do not rest wrists even on soft wrist pads for long periods since this can damage the nerves in the wrists. When not using the keyboard or mouse, move your arms back close to your body.
- Move your whole hand to reach distant keys; don’t stretch the hand.
- Computer table/desk should be as thin as possible to allow plenty of clearance for your legs.
- The top of the screen should be at eye level or below so you look slightly down at the screen.
- You should not have to tilt back to look at any part of the screen. People with bifocals have particular trouble with this. It is best for bifocal wearers to position their monitor screens lower or get computer glasses.
- Position the monitor directly in front of you, not to the side. The depth of the computer work surface must be deep enough (minimum 30 inches depending on size of monitor) to allow this set up.
- Keep your face an arm’s length away from the front of the monitor.
- Document holders should be about the same height and distance away as the computer monitor.
- Chairs should provide good lumbar (lower back) support. If they do not, lumbar cushions may help. Sit back in the chair and use the backrest. Don’t perch on the chair.
- Chair height should be adjusted such that the feet rest flat on the floor with your thighs parallel to the floor or at a slight downward angle. If work surfaces are too high, the chair should be raised up to an appropriate height and a footrest used under the workstation.
- In most cases, chair armrests are beneficial to address upper back, shoulder and neck issues. If provided, armrests should be padded and at a height that allows elbows to be at your sides. In addition, armrests must be recessed such that you can easily pull up to the work surface and work with inner angle of the elbows at 90 degrees or greater.
TAKE A BREAK
- Make time for micro-breaks. Most typing is done in bursts rather than continuously, so between those bursts of activity, rest your hands in a relaxed, flat, straight posture. During a micro-break (at least 2 minutes in length) you can briefly stretch, stand up, move around or do a different work task, like returning a phone call. A micro-break isn't necessarily a break from work, but it's a break from the use of a particular set of muscles (e.g. the finger flexors if you're doing a lot of typing).
- Relax with rest breaks. Every 30 to 60 minutes you should take a brief rest break. During this break, stand up, move around and do something else. Go get a drink or enjoy a quick visit with a co-worker. This allows you to rest and increases alertness.
- Re-energize with an exercise break. There are some great stretches and gentle exercises that you can do to help relieve muscle fatigue. Try one – or all – of the stretches below every 1 to 2 hours.