Why ergonomics is important in the workplace

Ergonomics is the science of designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems for people to use them safely and efficiently. Focusing on ergonomics is important because assuming incorrect postures for long periods can cause strain on your body and even affect your musculoskeletal system. Improper postures can lead to symptoms such as discomfort, fatigue and pain, and also trigger the development of musculoskeletal disorders.

In contrast, proper workplace ergonomics can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders such as tennis elbow (inflammation of a tendon in the elbow) and carpal tunnel syndrome (a painful condition affecting the hand and wrist).

Moreover, workplace ergonomics can help you reduce your risk of back and neck pain and other health issues associated with extended periods of sitting. Here are a few simple guidelines to maintain good posture while sitting, standing and talking on the phone.

What are the proper ergonomics for sitting at a computer?

People who need to sit at a desk and behind a computer for long periods need to take extra precautions to ensure they maintain a healthy posture and back. Ergonomics experts also recommended breaking up sitting sessions by periodic standing and moving, preferably for 1-2 minutes every 20 to 30 minutes. Scientific research has shown that frequent short breaks can improve your comfort, work performance, and can even reduce the risks of musculoskeletal injuries. Here are some helpful tips for working on a computer while sitting:

  • Computer positioning

Your monitor should be at your eye level, and your eye distance to the screen should be roughly the size of your screen. This means that if you have a 16-inch monitor, the distance between your eyes and your screen should be approximately 16 inches as well. The computer screen should be tilted 20 degrees backwards for better viewing. Moreover, the mouse should be placed close to the keyboard.

  • Body positioning

When sitting, your elbows and knees should be bent at 90 degrees, and your torso should be at 90-100 degrees to your thighs. Your back should be kept straight, and your feet should be placed flat on the ground. You can also add back support to your chair for optional support for your lower back.

What are the proper ergonomics for standing at a computer?

Working at a computer while standing also requires some special posture considerations, to correctly align your body and make sure the right amount of muscle tension supports its parts.

  • Determining your ideal desk height

When setting up your standing desk, you will first need to ensure that it is at your perfect height. Having a standing desk that is off even by a few inches can cause unnecessary slouching, as well as neck and wrist pain. Typically, the optimal standing desk height is at the elbow level. When you are standing upright with your chest up and shoulders back, your forearms should rest flat on the desk surface (parallel to the desk and floor).

  • Computer positioning

Your monitor should be at eye-level and an arm’s reach away from your eyes. Your mouse should be close to the keyboard, and the items on your desk you use most should be placed closest to you. Your monitor should be tilted 20 degrees backwards for better viewing.

  • Body positioning

When standing at your desk, your shoulders should be back and not rounded forward. Your head should also be set back over your spine to make your ears in line with your shoulders. Moreover, you can rest one leg on a footstool. You should be wearing comfortable shoes and avoid wearing high heels. It is also important to avoid standing in one position for long periods; you should periodically stretch, shift your weight from one leg to another, or do some squats or yoga poses.

Maintaining good posture when using the phone

Looking down at your phone or holding your phone next to your ear using your shoulder can place a lot of strain on the muscles and vertebrae of your neck and upper back. Here are some tips for proper posture when talking on the phone:

  • Hold your phone in front of your face at eye level
  • Avoid tilting your neck towards shoulder while talking on the phone
  • Keep your chin up and parallel to the ground
  • Pull your shoulders down and back by lifting your chest

Other ways to improve posture

Besides practicing good sitting and standing habits, there are some different ways to improve your posture. Here are some everyday tips to keep your musculoskeletal system and posture healthy:

  • When possible, use a wireless headset or speakerphone for long phone calls to avoid tilting your head for long periods.acupuncture
  • If you work on a laptop, you can use a standing desk conversion kit to adjust the monitor to your eye level and work while standing up. To make sure your arms are in the correct position, you can use a wireless keyboard attached to your laptop.
  • It is essential to exercise three times a week for at least 30 minutes, with a focus on aerobic exercise, stretching, and muscle-strengthening (resistance training).
  • You can place a lumbar support cushion on your car seat to increase support and reduce lower back strain.
  • Wearing comfortable shoes or orthotics can be helpful to reduce strain on your body while standing for long periods.