Written by Professional Physical Therapy contributors Robert Shapiro PT, DPT, COMT and Partner/Director of Clinical Excellence and Steve Vitale PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, OMT.
Ergonomics is the process of fitting a workplace (at home or office) to the needs of the worker, rather than the other way around. The goal of ergonomics is to increase efficiency and productivity by reducing peoples’ physical discomfort. This could involve aspects of your workday that may seem relatively minor, like eye strain, desk height, and wrist angle while typing.
Many jobs require people to lead a lifestyle that’s not ideal for their health. Ergonomics is concerned with introducing movement to your workday, striking a balance between sitting and standing, and getting the blood flowing.
Check out some of these ergonomic tips to get your life healthier and more comfortable.
Neutral posture means your body is aligned and balanced while either sitting or standing.
- Back upright with a natural “S” curve through your spine – hips slightly higher than your knees
- Shoulders relaxed
- Forearms horizontal
- Feet flat on the floor
- Natural “S” shape curve of your spine maintained
- Shoulder relaxed back and down
- Feet hips width apart with weight evenly through both legs
- Head central, not tilting forwards or backwards
X Lowering your chair
X Sitting or standing unevenly for long periods
X Leaning forward
X Hunching your shoulders
Your work station should fit you and your unique body type. Having both an adjustable desk and chair are important to ensure you can set your workstation set up to a point that fits you, at home or at the office. Keep these things in mind:
Monitor: Adjust distance and height. Top of monitor should be at eye-level and slightly tilted.
Arms: Relax shoulders, forearms, parallel to the floor. Minimal bend at the wrist.
Chair: Should have a backrest and armrests, adjust height.
Legs: Thighs parallel to the floor (hips higher than knees).
Feet: Parallel to the floor, use of footrest, if necessary.
Keep a tidy work space. Not only does this mean physically you can sit at your desk as optimally as possible, but psychologically it helps with managing stress levels.
Proper placement of tools and materials at your workstation can make all the difference.
Primary Work Zone: Recurrent tasks and frequently used tools should be positioned within the “reach envelope” of your forearms (the right arm in the diagram or green area). This means you don’t need to move your upper arm in order to perform the task (i.e. area where keyboard and mouse should be placed). 60% of your day should be spent in this zone.
Secondary Work Zone: Here, everything that is used less frequently and can be reached within the envelope defined by an outstretched arm (the left arm in the diagram, shown in yellow). A computer keyboard and mouse used only occasionally may be placed in the secondary work zone. 30% of your day should be spent in this zone.
Reference Work Zone: This work zone requires additional bodily movement, which includes standing up if seated. Infrequently used items such as reference manuals or drawings can be stored here. 10% of your day should be spent in this zone.
Make sure your working environment is as optimal as possible. Poor temperature, whether that’s too hot or too cold, can increase your likelihood of stress and physical aches and pains. It can also affect your concentration as can noise, be it from a colleagues or your own music.
Poor lighting will strain your eyes. Make sure there isn’t a bright light coming from any angle as this can cause unnecessary strain. Make sure there is enough space between you and your co-worker to be able to utilize your desk most effectively.
Professional Physical Therapy has trained physical and occupational therapists that work with patients to improve posture and ergonomics. If you feel like your posture is not ideal for you, and you are sensing increased stresses to your body from these positions, contact Professional Physical Therapy for an ergonomic assessment and physical therapy evaluation, so you can get your life healthier and more comfortable today!
Note: All Interior Photos Source – Physitrack, PLC, unless otherwise indicated.