What Is Ergonomics?

What does ergonomics mean?
Ergonomics is a science that helps us understand and design an optimal work environment to achieve comfort, productivity and health.

 

Why do we use ergonomics?
Unfortunately, a majority of existing workstations do not meet ergonomic standards. Stationary desks or chairs aren’t able to accommodate the individuals and will not conform to their unique height and shape, causing higher levels of stress on the body due to working in wrong positions for long periods of time.
Becoming ergonomically correct is not complicated. Using Adjustable Sit-Stand Workstations, Ergonomic Office Chairs, Adjustable Keyboard Trays, Laptop stands, Monitor Arms and even iPad Mounts, it has become easier and easier to attain a healthy work-style.


What is the best way to organize my workstation?
You should keep the most frequently used items within easy arms reach and on the side of your dominant hand. For instance, if you spend a lot of time on the phone and are right-handed, you should have your phone within easy arm's reach on the right side of your workstation. Avoid awkward reaching, bending, or stretching to reach frequently used items.
 

What are the ‘triggers’ that suggest my workplace has ergonomic related problems?
Employees in your workplace are experiencing soft-tissue injuries such as tendonitis, back injuries, sore muscles, etc. These are all indicators that the job demands are excessive due to one or a combination of risk factors (i.e. force levels, work postures, repetitive actions, long durations, and/or psychosocial stressors).


What is the best position for the monitor at my workstation?
Many people make the mistake of putting the monitor, the keyboard, or both off to one side on a desk. If you perform more than a few minutes of keyboarding a day, the keyboard and monitor should be placed directly in front of your normal sitting position. The screen should be 18-30 inches from your eyes, or about an arm's length.
 

What are the dangers of using a laptop for work?
Laptops are being increasingly used in the workplace. However, their connected keyboards and screens defy all accepted recommendations for ergonomic computing! Research is consistently demonstrating a relationship between laptop computing and poor posture, increased neck angle, tilt and stress, and lower productivity.

Alan Hedge, Professor of Ergonomics, Cornell University, wrote regarding extensive laptop usage: "Beg, borrow or steal an external keyboard and mouse for desk work...be sure to elevate and position the screen to approximate looking at a real monitor." 

Tips for Adjusting Laptops in Desktop Holders:

  • Elevate the laptop screen at or near eye level to lessen neck angle and head tilt.
  • Use a keyboard and mouse independent of the one on the laptop.
  • Maintain a comfortable viewing distance: typically 18 to 30 inches.
  • Angle the screen to be perpendicular to line of sight.
  • Take regular rest breaks.


What difference does a laptop stand make?
Most people sit too low in their chair to maintain a straight, ergonomically correct wrist angle while typing on a notebook. Because the elbow is positioned below the table top, the wrist must bend to use the keyboard. By tilting the notebook to match the user's natural wrist position, the wrist is kept in an ergonomically better (non-bent) position. This tilt also raises the viewing screen so the user does not have to bend their neck for viewing. The result is a much more comfortable notebook keyboarding experience. This is applicable when the laptop stand is used without an external keyboard.
 

What factors should I consider when choosing a chair?
  • The work being done
  • The chair functions that address the work
  • The options available, and
  • The budget.
Then, choose an ergonomic seating category that best describes the duties of the job being performed.
 
 
What features should I look for in the backrest of a chair?
Expensive motors and adjustable sections are not necessary if the backrest has firm support for the inward curve of the lower spine (lumbar) and outward curve of the upper spine (thoracic). Whether you need upper body support to help keep your torso and head vertical is a matter of preference. Despite what kind of chair you may have, there are a number of portable cushions and supports that can give you additional (and correct) support.
 

What other characteristics of a chair are important?
The seat of the chair should be large enough to accommodate frequent changes in position and firm enough to allow your weight to be supported through the buttocks not the thighs. If others will use your chair, easy height adjustment is a must.
 
 
Do I need to sit in the same perfect posture all day?
Actually, no. You should try to vary your activities and position during the day to stimulate circulation and rest overworked muscles. Find a couple of low-risk positions that offer support and comfort and shift between them. If you plan to do a repetitive task such as work at your desk for an extended period, many experts feel that you should take frequent mini-breaks of a few minutes each hour. During these breaks you could do some filing, sort your mail, do some stretches, tidy up your office, or go for a short walk.
 

Do I need lumbar support?

Everyone should have lumbar support. The lumbar region of your back is the area just above your waistline where your spine gently curves inward. If the backrest of your chair doesn't support this area, you should consider adding an secondary lumbar support.
 
 
How do I know if I need a footrest?
If your chair is adjusted to the proper height and your feet aren't flat on the floor, you should consider using a footrest. Foot rests can also help individuals who have experienced problems with keeping their lower backs positioned against the back rest of their chair. That way the chair back, instead of their lower back muscles, is providing the support they need.
 

What are the benefits of using a footrest
A footrest may not seem like a primary ergonomic accessory, but it does provide significant ergonomic benefit. An ergonomic footrest can ease leg problems and lessen lower back issues. And back problems are one of the main reasons for lost productivity in the workplace, so a footrest should be included in your budget for an ergonomic workstation.

Posture
Your hips should be slightly higher than your knees. Don’t keep your feet flat on the floor but move them around often. Use a footrest if there is pressure on the back of the legs or if the feet are not resting on the floor. The footrest should be adjustable and should support the entire foot.

Movement Improves Circulation
Rocking footrests or footrests with built-in massage balls promote movement, which can help increase circulation problems (such as blood clots) that result from long periods of inactivity. You should change your position as frequently as possible by adjusting your hips, moving your feet, lifting your arms and just slightly altering your posture continuously during your work day. You should also take frequent breaks, say for 10 minutes every hour - and have a good stretch.
Position of Feet
Feet should never dangle, unsupported from the floor. A footrest is a good idea for shorter people and can be used to support some leg weight.

 
Why should I use a wrist rest?
When positioned correctly, a wrist rest helps encourage a neutral wrist position where the forearms, wrists, and hands are in a straight line. Most experts recommend keying or typing with the wrists elevated off the rest, and resting the wrists and palms on the rest during pauses. Without wrist rests, people often rest their wrists on a sharp desk edge or on the hard edge of a keyboard tray. This can actually create pressure points that aggravate hand and wrist problems.
 

What is RSI?
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is a description of a manual injury associated with any repetitive activity such as hammering, piano playing, truck driving, computer use, or even shaking hands. Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS), Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD), and Work Related Upper Limb Disorders (WRULD), are all equivalent expressions to RSI.
 
 
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a specific, severe, and debilitating form of RSI which describes a squeezing of the median nerve as it runs into the hand. The nerve is squeezed by swollen tendons surrounding it as they cross through a bony passage (The Carpal Tunnel) at the inside of the wrist.
 
 
What is the best room lighting to help reduce eye strain?
A mixture of fluorescent and incandescent light is usually most pleasing. The most important aspect of lighting is to reduce glare and bright reflections from your screen, nearby glass, or shiny surfaces. Since light conditions change during the day this may require several adjustments while working.
 
 
If I work at a computer, how often should I have my eyes checked?
The recommendation is a minimum of once every two years. When you make an appointment with your eye care professionals, you should mention that you work at a computer and ask if they need any further information. They may want to know how much time you spend at the computer and how far your monitor is from your eyes. If you are a heavy computer user, they may offer you glasses that are optimized for computer work.
 
 
Is there an optimum height for my monitor and mouse?
Yes. The top of the monitor should be at eye level because the eyes are at their most comfortable position straight ahead but slightly downward. This is why reading lenses in bifocal glasses are placed just below the horizontal plane. This posture also makes it easiest to balance your head above your shoulders with the least muscular effort.
 
Be sure to look away from your screen at least every 30 minutes and focus on something over 20 feet away.
 
Poor mouse operations can create RSI. At many work stations it is common to see the keyboard in proper position just above the knees, but the mouse is on a higher and more forward countertop. Mouse position should be on the same level as the keyboard so that mouse use does not create a twisted or reaching posture. A keyboard tray with a mouse shelf extension is one easy and relatively inexpensive solution to this problem
 
 
Does ergonomics matter to the home user?
There are often poor ergonomic choices for the computer user at home, despite the increasing number of hours per day spent at a home computer. Although ergonomic design may be used in the work place, it receives minimal consideration in the home. Yet, the consequences of fatigue and repetitive stress are still present.
 
One of the unique ergonomic concerns of home use is the proliferation of computers positioned on tables, file cabinets and other home furniture. By using an adjustable support that accommodates a keyboard and mouse, you get the ability to stay a comfortable distance from the monitor.
 
Home computers are often used by variety of people in the family, from children to grandparents. A height adjustable keyboard/mouse platform allows for flexibility in the variety of computer users in the home, providing ergonomic comfort and safety for both the 6 foot adult and the five-year old child.
 
The proliferation of wireless networking in the home also allows unusual placement of the laptop computer for special occasions. The first beautiful day of summer also encourages the laptop user to move to a lawn chair outdoors or poolside. An adjustable platform (such as the GraceStand) accommodates this unique home ergonomic issue.
 
 
What is Memory Foam?

Memory foam was originally developed by NASA to ease the pressure of extreme G-Force during space shuttle take off. While memory foam was never used in the space program, it was subsequently used in medical applications.  Its most common domestic applications are mattresses, pillows and mattress toppers (also known as mattress pads). It remains useful in medical-related applications, such as wheelchair seat cushions, hospital bed pillows, and padding for persons suffering long-term pain or postural problems; for example, a memory foam cervical pillow may alleviate chronic neck pain. Its heat-retaining properties are also helpful to some pain sufferers, who find the added warmth also helps alleviate pain.
 
The hardness or softness of memory foam plays an important role in ensuring comfort. Unlike other types of polyurethane foam, memory foam has the ability to change firmness with temperature (it becomes firmer when colder and softer when warmer).