If you sit behind a desk for hours at a time with poor sitting posture and workplace ergonomics, this can damage spinal structures and contribute to recurrent episodes of back pain. But with proper office ergonomics — including correct chair height, adequate equipment spacing, and good desk posture — can help you and your joints stay comfortable at work.
Here are some important visual guidelines to office ergonomics for you to make sure that your office chair and work area are as comfortable as possible and cause the least amount of stress to your spine! By following this guideline, you can rest assured that you are not doomed to a career of neck and back pain or sore wrists and fingers.
The ergonomics workstation should have the following features:
- a flat smooth surface for the keyboard and mouse so they can be used on the same level
- space to position all the equipment so that posture or vision is not compromised when completing tasks
- a suitable height (e.g. 680-720 mm when measured from the top of the workstation to the floor)
- adequate clearance for legs under the desktop
- sufficient space under the desk to comfortably stretch legs.
Choose a chair that supports your spinal curves. Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet rest flat on the floor or on a footrest and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Adjust armrests so your arms gently rest on them with your shoulders relaxed.
You should use adjustable office chairs with the following features:
- adjustable seat height
- curved lower back (lumbar) support on the backrest
- adjustable backrest height and support the upper/lower back (allowing the lumbar support to be adjusted to suit the individual
- adjustable backrest tilt (in the forward/backward direction). This is used in combination with the seat pan tilt to allow the user to make adjustments to help maintain the natural curve of the spine
- adjustable seat pan tilt (allowing the seat to tilt forwards slightly)
- a rounded front edge of the seat
- adjustment controls that are easy to operate from the seated position
- seat pan depth adjustment (by sliding the seat). This feature reduces the need to order chairs with different sized seats to suit shorter or taller workers
- a five-point base. A chair with five casters is less likely to tip over than one with four casters
- comfortable cushioning and covering on the seat and backrest.
Where jobs are highly sedentary, the user may benefit from a ‘free-floating’ back support mechanism incorporated into the backrest
Keep key objects — such as your telephone, stapler or printed materials — close to your body to minimize reaching. Stand up to reach anything that can't be comfortably reached while sitting.
Keyboard and mouse
When setting up the keyboard and mouse, these general guidelines apply:
- position the keyboard straight in front of the user to avoid twisting the neck or body · use a keyboard without a numeric key pad to reduce the width of the keyboard. this allows the mouse to be positioned closer to the body
- adjust the angle and height of the keyboard by folding or unfolding the small legs under the keyboard
- place your mouse within easy reach and on the same surface as your keyboard.
While typing or using your mouse, keep your wrists straight, your upper arms close to your body, and your hands at or slightly below the level of your elbows. Use keyboard shortcuts to reduce extended mouse use. If possible, adjust the sensitivity of the mouse so you can use a light touch to operate it. Alternate the hand you use to operate the mouse by moving the mouse to the other side of your keyboard.
If you frequently talk on the phone and type or write at the same time, place your phone on speaker or use a headset rather than cradling the phone between your head and neck.
Telephones should be positioned within the primary work zone to reduce repetitive reaching if they are used frequently. Telephone headsets should be used when there is sustained phone use or workers are required to write or use the computer at the same time. Wireless headsets or appropriately corded headsets allow the user to stand up and move around their workstation at suitable times during or between phone calls.
A footrest should be used if the user’s feet cannot be placed flat on the floor or your chair is too high. The correct height of the footrest is the distance the feet are off the floor after adjusting the seat height. A footrest should:
- have a non-slip surface large enough for both feet to rest comfortably (about 30 x 30 cm)
- have an adjustable slope (10-20 degrees) to allow a comfortable ankle position when feet are resting on it
- be stable enough so it does not slide or move.
If a footrest is not available, try using a small stool or a stack of sturdy books instead.
Under the desk, make sure there's clearance for your knees, thighs and feet. If the desk is too low and can't be adjusted, place sturdy boards or blocks under the desk legs. If the desk is too high and can't be adjusted, raise your chair. Use a footrest to support your feet as needed. If your desk has a hard edge, pad the edge or use a wrist rest. Don't store items under your desk.
There is no single correct viewing position for the computer screen. But you can follow a general guide to setting up the monitor:
- Screen height - the top of the screen should be set at eye level or lower this may reduce visual fatigue.
- Viewing distance - position the screen about one arm length away or slightly further. This may reduce visual fatigue.
- Trial various positions to determine the ideal viewing distance and height.
- Display - adjust the font size or display so that the content can be read easily
Try to remember to stand, stretch and walk for at least a minute or two every half hour. Moving about and stretching on a regular basis throughout the day will help keep your joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons loose, which in turn will help you feel more comfortable, more relaxed, and more productive.