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How Workplace Ergonomics Can Affect Your Health

Updated on May 4, 2010

If you've ever spent several hours sitting a computer terminal, you'll know how quickly it can lead to bad posture, which can then result in joint pain and repetitive strain injuries. With this in mind, how can you make sure that there are good ergonomics in your workplace. Fortunately, you don't need to make radical changes to make this happen and this article will guide you through some relatively minor alterations that can be made to improve your posture and general health.

Feet

You should be able to plant your feet flat on the floor while you're working at a desk. If you can't do this, your office chair probably needs to be adjusted so that it's at the right height. Tucking your feet under the chair puts a lot of pressure on the back of your knees, which can lead to knee pain further down the line.

Legs

Make sure that your desk has enough room underneath it so that your legs aren't squashed up. If you're constantly trying to fit your legs into space that isn't really there, you can get cramp. Take regular breaks to stretch your legs to limit the probability of getting cramp from sitting in the same position and it can also be helpful to move the position of your legs on a fairly regular basis while you're sitting at the desk. Even something as seemingly innocuous as crossing your legs while you're working can do more harm that you might think as it can twist your pelvis if you're sitting in that position for some time.

Posture

Keep an eye on your posture as it can change without you even being aware of it, especially when you're engrossed in getting work done. Your posture might be fine at the start of the day but as you start to flag in the afternoon, it's more of an effort to maintain good posture on an unconscious basis. It's a good idea to take regular breaks so that you can correct your posture.

Lower back

Make sure that your office chair offers good support for your lower back. If your job involves a lot of typing, you may find yourself leaning forwards and hunching over the keyboard. This leaves your lower back without adequate support. If you're straining to reach the keyboard, try moving your chair closer to the computer instead so that your back is supported.

An adjustable chair is useful as you can make sure that it is set at the right height. Ideally, the backrest's contours should follow the curves of your spine without being uncomfortable so that the lumbar curve at the bottom of your back is properly supported.

Head

If you're leaning forward over the keyboard when you type, you'll tend to find that your neck muscles become tense and painful after a while. If your back is adequately supported using the advice in the previous section, it should be easier to avoid this.

Shoulders and elbows

The height of your office chair should be adjusted so that you can type comfortably. For example, your shoulders should be relaxed and your elbows should be able to hang by your sides rather than being stuck out to the sides. An ergonomic office chair that has arm supports helps to keep your arms in this position so that there is less strain on your neck and shoulders.

Wrists

If you've got any existing pain in your wrists, it can be made worse by leaning your wrists on the desk or edge of the keyboard while you type. Instead, try to make sure that your wrist stays in line with your forearm so that your fingers are doing most of the work. You may need to adjust the slope of your keyboard to make your wrists more comfortable and you may also benefit from a cushioned wrist support at the bottom of the keyboard to encourage your wrists into the recommended position.

Eyes

Being in front of a computer for hours on end can make your eyes sore and tired. To counter this, take regular breaks to refresh them and look away from the computer every so often, focusing your gaze on a point in the distance. Blinking keeps your eyes moisturized. 

Using a laptop

If you use a laptop, make sure that it's positioned on a firm surface so that you're not having to stretch your neck to look at the screen.Laptops are generally less ergonomic than desktop computers are you can't adjust the screen and keyboard for your own comfort. Because of this, they're less preferable than a desktop for long periods of work. 

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    • profile image

      hollyw 

      8 years ago

      All of these comments are really great for learning more about how to improve your work space. It has been proven that a comfortable and supportive work station leads to a more productive work place and I find that my multi screen support arms work really well as I have two screens on the go at any one time and it saves me turning around to another work place to see each one...

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