Humans have long spent the majority of their waking hours at work. But instead of manufacturing, farming and building, most of us now spend our days typing, scrolling and clicking. While the office is certainly the safer work environment, long hours behind the desk can be detrimental to your health.
“Our bodies weren’t designed to be in a static position for hours at a time. It can lead to neck, back, shoulder, wrist and hand pain,” says Traci Bush, D.P.T. OTR/L, D.H.S., chair and program director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Des Moines University. “Ergonomics sets up the work environment to help prevent these common injuries by maximizing best posture.”
Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population. Using the science to set up your workspace can increase your satisfaction and productivity in addition to preventing injury. Bush recommends examining these six office fixtures to ensure proper placement and good posture:
- Chair – Adjustable chairs with armrests are ideal. Your hips and knees should be at 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor. Maintain the lower curvature of your back by adjusting the chair’s back support or using a towel roll or pillow.
- Keyboard – When typing, keep your wrists in a flat, neutral position or extended slightly upward. Most standard keyboards are adequate, but ergonomic options are available.
- Monitor – Place the monitor in front of you, approximately 20-40 inches away to eliminate eyestrain. The top of the screen should be at eye level when sitting upright.
- Mouse – Position the mouse next to the keyboard at elbow level. If you do a lot of mousing, an ergonomic mouse can help reduce the stress placed on your wrist and fingers.
- Lighting – Minimize glare by keeping the monitor away from sunny windows and bright lights. If your office is too bright, take out a light bulb to dim the room.
- Noise – Work in a calm, quiet environment. Excessive noise can create tension, cause stress and alter body mechanics.
Many office injuries are a direct result of extensive sitting in strained positions. No matter where you work, incorporating these concepts into your space is critical in maintaining optimal health.
“It’s the responsibility of the worker to employ the same principles at home and at work,” Bush says. “Work smarter and better. If you’re feeling good and healthy, you’ll be more productive.”