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Ergonomics: How to Work Safely and Comfortably

Pain is not fun. Whether it’s neck pain, back pain, wrist pain, or any type of pain, it’s in our nature to avoid pain whenever we can. Some signs of potential pain can be obvious, like when you see an object flying towards your face. However, there’s sneaky instances of pain and they could be infesting your workspace. Ergonomics and ergonomic items help to eliminate those silent pain producers. Next time you sit at your desk, keep in mind these key tips so that you can work comfortably and safely all day, every day.

Seating Posture

1. “Make sure that the weight of your arms is supported at all times. If your arms are not supported, the muscles of your neck and shoulders will be crying by the end of the day.” (Ergonomics Plus)

2. “Don’t be a slouch! Slouching puts more pressure on the discs and vertebrae of your back. Use the lumbar support of your chair and avoid sitting in a way that places body weight more on one than on the other. Move your chair as close to your work as possible to avoid leaning and reaching. Make sure to “scoot” your chair in every time you sit down.” (Ergonomics Plus)

3. “The feet should not be dangling when you are seated. If your feet don’t comfortably reach the floor or there is pressure on the backs of your legs, use a footrest or lower the keyboard and chair.” (Ergonomics Plus)

“If your chair is too high for you to rest your feet flat on the floor — or the height of your desk requires you to raise the height of your chair — use a footrest. If a footrest is not available, try using a small stool or a stack of sturdy books instead.” (Mayo Clinic)

4. “Under the desk, make sure there's clearance for your knees, thighs and feet. If the desk is too low and can't be adjusted, place sturdy boards or blocks under the desk legs. If the desk is too high and can't be adjusted, raise your chair. Use a footrest to support your feet as needed. If your desk has a hard edge, pad the edge or use a wrist rest. Don't store items under your desk.” (Mayo Clinic)

Computer Use

1. “The monitor should be placed directly in front of you, with the top no higher than eye level. The keyboard should be directly in front of the monitor so you don’t have to frequently turn your head and neck.” (Ergonomics Plus)

2. “The keyboard and the mouse should close enough to prevent excessive reaching which strains the shoulders and arms.” (Ergonomics Plus)

3. “Avoid eye strain by making sure that your monitor is not too close, it should be at least an arm’s length away.

Take steps to control screen glare, and make sure that the monitor is not placed in front of a window or a bright background.

You can rest your eyes periodically for several seconds by looking at objects at a distance to give your eyes a break.” (Ergonomics Plus)

“If you wear bifocals, lower the monitor an additional 1 to 2 inches for more comfortable viewing. Place your monitor so that the brightest light source is to the side.” (Mayo Clinic)

4. “While typing or using your mouse, keep your wrists straight, your upper arms close to your body, and your hands at or slightly below the level of your elbows. Use keyboard shortcuts to reduce extended mouse use. If possible, adjust the sensitivity of the mouse so you can use a light touch to operate it. Alternate the hand you use to operate the mouse by moving the mouse to the other side of your keyboard.” (Mayo Clinic)

Phone Use

1. “Talking on the phone with the phone receiver jammed between the neck and ear is really bad practice. You know that’s true, so don’t do it!” (Ergonomics Plus)

2. “If you frequently talk on the phone and type or write at the same time, place your phone on speaker or use a headset.” (Mayo Clinic)

Tools and Objects

1. “Keep key objects — such as your telephone, stapler or printed materials — close to your body to minimize reaching. Stand up to reach anything that can't be comfortably reached while sitting.” (Mayo Clinic)

For more information on how ergonomics can keep you fit, check out these articles:

10 Office Ergonomics Tips to Help You Avoid Fatigue, Mark Middlesworth, Ergonomics Plus

Office ergonomics: Your how-to guide, Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic

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