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Office Ergonomics: 5 Tips to Keep Workers Healthy and Happy

Office ergonomics is one of the keys to keeping workers happy, healthy, and productive. But what exactly does good office ergonomics look like? Let’s take a look at the many ways to implement healthy habits at your desk.

Tip #1: Pursue healthy movement

One of the most significant factors of ergonomics in a working environment is maintaining healthy movement throughout the day. You could maintain perfect posture, buy the most expensive ergonomic office chair, and set up an adjustable desk. But if you sit in the same position all day, your health risks skyrocket, despite your “ergonomic” setup. The phrase “sitting is the new smoking” floated around the internet for a while. While this may be an exaggerated comparison, there’s some scientific merit to warnings about the health dangers of inactivity.

Researchers found a direct relationship between time spent sitting and the risk of early mortality based on a study of nearly 8,000 adults. As total sitting time increases, so does the risk of early death. People who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of premature death. They also had a decreased likelihood of musculoskeletal problems such as back and neck problems.1 Move regularly to avoid these adverse effects, using the principle of 20/20. This involves spending 20 seconds away from your sitting position every 20 minutes.

Sitting also affects other elements of your health. People who sit for long periods double their risk of heart disease. Additionally, when sitting still, insulin levels drop by 24% (increasing diabetes risk), and your good cholesterol drops by 20%. You may be tempted to rationalize that a standing desk is a solution — but that’s not true either. Standing for prolonged periods puts more pressure on your spine than sitting and can lead to other vascular problems.2

The best solution is to move away from your desk every 20-30 minutes. This is effective even if you stand for only a few seconds or walk a few paces. If you are standing for extended periods longer than 20 minutes, try to sit for a while. An adjustable desk is an excellent option for computer work. You can raise and lower your working position intermittently and increase blood flow. The biggest goal: keep moving.

Tip #2: Avoid eye strain

Eyestrain is the most common repetitive strain injury. Those who primarily work at a computer for more than three hours a day are particularly at risk. Eyestrain or eye fatigue results from overworking the muscle groups of the viewer’s eyes.

Glare is another common cause of eye muscle fatigue. With a glare on the monitor, the eyes must work harder to discern an image on the screen. The position of the computer screen also plays a vital role in reducing eye strain. In their natural resting position, the eyes take in a field of vision straight ahead and slightly down. If the monitor isn’t in that field of vision, the eye muscles must constantly work to adjust. To protect your eyes, start by repositioning the computer monitor. It should sit straight in front of you at a distance of 45-76 cm. The top of the monitor should remain level with your eyes. This will allow your eyes to remain in a neutral position.

Ideally, your monitor should be in a dimly lit area to avoid eyestrain. For maximum screen glare reduction, nearby windows should be covered with blinds. If the source of the glare can’t be adjusted, consider a hood or a glare guard for the monitor. The monitor itself can also contribute to eyestrain. If the monitor is set to the wrong level of brightness, contrast, or color, the eyes must work harder.

No matter the work environment you’re in, you can reduce eyestrain. Start with making sure you’re frequently blinking. Since it’s involuntary, most computer users don’t notice their decreased blinking while using screens. You can also rest your eyes at least every two hours by taking a break. Try doing a simple exercise or engage in a task away from the computer.

Tip #3: Maintain back and neck posture

The position of your chair is vital for good posture. Keeping your bones and muscles in line is essential to promoting efficiency, endurance, and overall well-being. When you slouch forward, your bones are not correctly aligned, and your muscles, joints, and ligaments become strained.

Your chair should provide back support in an upright and relaxed arch position. Unfortunately, not all chairs have enough lumbar support. In that case, try putting a cushion or rolled-up towel between the chair and the curve of your lower back. Good lumbar support should follow the natural curvature of your spine. The chair height should allow your feet to rest firmly on the ground, with your thighs parallel to the floor. If your chair is too high and non-adjustable, use a footrest.

For correct upper body posture, sit with a neutral spine position, with your hips and thigh forming a right angle. You can relax your shoulders without slouching if your back is well-supported by back and abdomen muscles. Frequent stretch breaks can help re-set your positioning to a healthier posture. They also help prevent other common injuries related to prolonged sitting. Try not to skip breaks!

Tip #4: Arm ergonomics

When you’re worried about posture, it’s easy to overlook the way that your arms are positioned at your computer keyboard.

When positioning your keyboard and mouse, you want to reduce any strain on your fingers, wrists, arms, and shoulders. Keep them in as neutral a position as possible. While typing, your wrists should be in line with the back of your hands. This reduces strain on your wrist from holding them at an unnatural angle. It allows you to move your arms to reach the keys rather than stretch your fingers.

Use a foam pad or wrist rest in front of your keyboard. That way, you can rest your wrists and forearms on your work surface while you’re not typing. Armrests on your chair should only be used when you’re not typing. The keyboard should be positioned so that your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. If you can’t move or tilt your keyboard, try adjusting the height of your chair. If your wrists are achy or tired, look into buying an ergonomic keyboard. 

Hold the mouse lightly without too much pressure. If you experience pain in your wrist and forearm, use an ergonomic mouse so you can toggle with your finger.

Tip #5: Leg ergonomics

If you can, adjust the seat height of your office chair so that you can keep your feet flat on the floor. Your feet and knees should be roughly hip-width apart. Start with your feet together, then turn out your toes as far as you can (channel your inner ballerina). Then, line up your heels with your toes, and your feet will be roughly hip-width apart.

Line up your knees with your feet and have the correct leg position. Your legs should also have enough room vertically so they’re not pressed against the bottom of the desk. Adjust your chair or desk to the correct height to prevent this.

Office ergonomics and workplace well-being

Poor office ergonomics is not just a matter of lower productivity; it can also contribute to work-related injuries. If you follow these ergonomic tips in your office, you’re putting your wellness first. While rest breaks and healthy movement are critical factors in a great daily routine, ergonomic design can help, too. Sedus offers ergonomic chairs, adjustable desks, and even ergonomic stools. Contact them to start implementing the right furniture to promote office ergonomics.

1 Patterns of Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in U.S. Middle-Aged and Older Adults

2 Correct Sitting Posture: Office

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