October is National Ergonomics Month, as designated by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society in the U.S. That means it’s time to focus on how you sit, where you work and what you use to work on a daily basis. And although the “work from anywhere” attitude can be fun, working ergonomically means avoiding the posture shown in the photo below.
You can use this list of tips to run a quick check through your working environment and habits to see how you can improve your ergonomics.
Start with a Good Chair
A ergonomic chair supports your back, legs, buttocks, and arms in a way that is relaxed and stress-reducing. Typically, an adjustable chair is the best option for desk working because it allows you to set it to fit your posture and adjust it to accommodate your sitting position during the day.
Make Sure You Have Lumbar Support
Lumbar support means having a backrest on your chair that appropriately supports your lower back. If your chair doesn’t provide this support, you can use a rolled up towel or small pillow between your back and the backrest of the chair.
Focus on Your Posture
When sitting at a desk, your posture should reflect neutral body positioning. This posture lets your joints align naturally so it reduces stress and strain on the muscles, tendons and skeletal system. In neutral body positioning, your:
- Hands, wrists, forearms, thighs and hips are parallel to the floor
- Head is level
- Shoulders are relaxed
- Elbows are close to the body
- Feet are supported by the floor or a footrest
- Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support
Place Your Monitor at a Good Location
The top of your monitor should be at or below eye level, placed directly in front of you and at least 20 inches away from your face. You should be able to comfortably read without moving your head or adjusting your posture.
Improve Lighting and Avoid Glare
If there is poor lighting or a glare on your screen, you may have to adjust your posture in order to see clearly. You may also develop eyestrain or headaches. Arrange your desk so you minimize glare from lights and windows, and use well-distributed diffused light that has less glare and is softer.
Don’t Forget About Your Keyboard and Mouse
The tools you use to work on your computer — namely your keyboard and mouse — can often be the biggest culprits of dangerous posture. Make sure your mouse is right next to your keyboard, it’s the correct size and shape for your hand (if you are left-handed, be sure to use a left-handed mouse), and your keyboard rests securely on a flat surface. You also want to make sure you use a wrist or palm rest to avoid contact with the sharp edges of your desk.
Ultimately, you want to be working comfortably your entire workday without feeling fatigue in your muscles or joints at the end of the day. Make sure your legs have enough room, you can reach everything you need access to, and you can read without strain.
These tips have been summarized from the OSHA Ergonomic Solutions: Computer Workstations eTool. There are many more ergonomic tips available on the site.
Image credit: frencenz