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Ergonomics: what, why, and how

Woman practicing good posture in office chair

Simply put, ergonomics is the science of designing an environment to fit the worker, so the work is safer and more efficient.

A primary goal of ergonomics is to reduce the risk of injury, which reduces healthcare costs. In addition, with good ergonomics, you’ll enjoy increased productivity, better overall health, and improved mood. It’s easier to focus on your tasks without the distraction of pain and discomfort!

You may know ergonomics is important to your well-being. But you may not be sure how to achieve it. To that end, we’d like to offer a few tips.

An example of an ergonomic workstation

  • The top of the monitor screen is at your eye level.
  • A telephone headset helps you to avoid awkward positions while talking and doing other tasks, such as typing.
  • A wrist pad at the bottom of the keyboard helps keep your wrists in a neutral position during brief rests from typing. Wrist pads are not designed to be used while you type. When you type or use your mouse, try raising your forearms a little so your wrists are in a neutral position and your arms and hands can move freely. It's best to rest your palm or the heel of your hand on the support, rather than your wrist.
  • A footrest raises your feet to reduce pressure on the lower back. Use one if your feet do not rest flat on the floor when you’re seated.
  • Armrests are adjusted so that your elbows are close to the side of your body and bent at an angle between 90 and 100 degrees. If possible, adjust them so your forearms are parallel to the floor and your wrists are neutral.
  • An adjustable chair has a height adjustment to allow your feet to rest on the floor or on a footrest. The back of the chair adjusts for different positions. Placing a lumbar pillow against the small of the back provides extra support.

Good posture while you work

Good posture at work can help prevent musculoskeletal injuries. These are injuries that affect your bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves, or tendons, causing pain.

Alignment while sitting:

  • To prevent back strain, position your head so your ears are directly above your shoulders and your shoulders directly over your hips.
  • Relax your shoulders and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Bring reading material up to you. Avoid leaning close to tasks on your desk.
  • Keep frequently used objects, such as your phone or stapler, close to your body to minimize reaching.

Alignment while standing:

  • Stand up tall, keeping the natural curves in your back. Slouching increases stress on your back and can make you feel less energetic.
  • If you stand for prolonged periods, change your position periodically. Try putting one foot up on a low stool.
  • Position your whole body toward your task instead of twisting.

More tips

  • Keep your work area clean and organized.
  • Whether you sit, stand, walk around, or do a combination in your work, it’s key to take frequent stretch breaks. Doing so keeps the blood flowing to your muscles and tissues, preventing discomfort and fatigue.
  • When lifting heavy objects, follow safe lifting techniques so your legs do the work instead of your back. Use a device to lift and reposition heavy objects or limit the weight of the load to reduce exertion needed.
  • Follow safety and ergonomic processes. Voice concerns and offer suggestions to leadership if you see hazards in your environment.

Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated.

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