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Ergonomics in the Office

Ergonomically setting up a workstation should maximize a worker’s efficiency and safety, while reflecting the specific needs of each individual. No two people have the same body type, and just as clothing comes in different sizes to fit you best, you need to adjust your workstation so it best fits you. Performing repetitive tasks in an unnatural position can cause fatigue, back pain and repetitive stress injuries. However, a properly set up workstation can increase efficiency, productivity, and comfort.

The most important item of your workstation is your chair. In order to ensure a comfortable ergonomic fit, stand in front of your chair and adjust the height so the seat is just below your knee caps. When you are sitting your thighs should be horizontal and your knees at right angles. Keep your feet flat on the floor and lean into the backrest. If your feet are not flat on the floor, or if your thighs are not parallel to the floor when you are sitting down, try using a footrest.

For better back support on your chair, adjust the lumbar support so it rests in the small of your back. If your chair does not have lumbar support, place a small rolled-up towel or small foam pillow in the curve of your back to add support. Keep your back in good alignment and your chin tucked in.

To find the ideal height for your desk, sit on your chair and hang your arms straight down.  The desktop should be at about the height of your elbows.  Alternatively, rest your arms at a 90 degree angle at your side in line with your torso. If the desk is the right height, your hands should rest comfortable on the desk. Position your computer monitor directly in front of you at eye level and about on arm length away from your eyes. Your keyboard and mouse should be within easy reach.  Position your keyboard so your wrists are straight and elbows are 90 degrees. While using the mouse try moving your whole arm and keeping your wrist straight rather than moving your wrist from side to side.

The risk of injury increases the longer you perform repetitive movements or sit in an uncomfortable position. Remember that the body was not designed to sit in a chair for eight hours a day. Stretch your back, neck and shoulders throughout the day to relieve muscle tension. Take frequent breaks and step away from your desk to give your body a break.

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