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How to Make an Office Ergonomic

Updated on January 9, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


Ergonomics can be defined as fitting the workplace to the worker instead of expecting people to force themselves to fit the equipment. Office safety is increasingly focusing on the ergonomics of the workplace. Repetitive stress disorders, back injuries and conditions like sciatica worsened by poor ergonomics are increasingly common causes of missed work and short term disability claims.

An ergonomic workplace - including an ergonomic office - results in fewer workplace injuries, lower worker's compensation insurance bills due to the number of claims and can bring your business into compliance with industry standards and OSHA regulations.

An ergonomic work station improves productivity and employee morale.
An ergonomic work station improves productivity and employee morale. | Source

Ergonomic Postures

  • Do not slouch or sit with your feet up. This bends your spine and worsens the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Sit up straight and keep your hips and knees bent.
  • To avoid twisting and turning of the back, keep your straight posture as you turn the chair around to reach something behind you or turn to face someone.
  • If you are on break, find a comfortable place to sit. Do not lean against the wall or slouch over a smart phone when you are on break. If necessary, request that more chairs be placed in the break room.
  • If you find yourself leaning onto the arm rests of your seat as you talk on the phone, consider removing them so that you have to maintain proper posture throughout the day.
  • Head rests and arm rests should be lowered when they get in your way.
  • Verify that your sitting position is level. While pillows or padded seats may be comfortable, uneven sitting positions add stress to the spine. Keep your feet flat on the floor. If your feet are not flat, adjust the chair height so that they are.

Ergonomic Furniture

  • Purchase an office chair with wheels so that you can slide over to another side of your desk instead of having to lean over to reach something.
  • Only use office chairs that offer ergonomic support for your back. The lumbar curve should be adjustable and be located where it fits your back. A less desirable option is using back pillows for lumbar support.
  • Move the keyboard so that it is directly in front of you. You may need to install a keyboard tray to accomplish this.
  • Install shelves in your work station that let you reach everything without having to bend over or stand on your toes to get to it.
  • Your computer should be at eye level. If it is not, install monitor risers so that the monitor is at eye level. If you use a lap top computer, get a laptop stand that brings the monitor to eye level.
  • If your job requires that you work from an upright position, request an upright stool. You can sit upon the stool while your hands are still up high.
  • If the job requires standing and a stool is out of the question, request the installation of soft ergonomic mats. These mats will reduce the stress on your legs from standing on a hard floor.
  • Minimizing heavy lifting will reduce the strain put on your back. If you use heavy tools, request that they be replaced with lighter versions or located on secured supports so that you do not need to lug them around.

Ergonomic Standards for the Office

What industry standards apply when you need to make an office ergonomic?

ISO 11226 describes the process for evaluating static or stopped working postures, such as someone sitting still at a desk.

The ISO 9241 standards family gives the terminology, requirements, analysis and assessments for electronic visual displays. This standards family covers electronic displays such as televisions, computers and digital signs. It generally applies to digital displays and computer monitors in the work place.

ANSI/HFS standard 100 also applies to visual display terminals.

Depending on your workplace, your workplace may also need to meet OSHA standards for employee comfort and safety.


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