Sore neck, achy back, locked shoulders – if you spend a lot of time working on computers or mobile devices, these are just a few of the ways that bad ergonomics could be taking a toll on your health and happiness.
Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate the discomfort. We’ll provide you a few tips and ideas to help make your work and life more comfortable.
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of designing products and workspaces for human use. Ergonomics takes into account a variety of human factors such as height, weight and proportions as well as preferences like hearing, sight and temperature. When ergonomics are poor, long-term problems can result. Sore backs and necks, carpal tunnel syndrome, and eyestrain are just a few examples.
Generally speaking, a focus of ergonomics with regard to a work space would be to ensure that desks and workspaces are at the right height for an individual’s body – i.e., a 5’3 woman should have a workspace designed for her, not for a 6’4” man.
With regard to mobile devices, ergonomics would typically focus on ensuring that a person can use them without problems like poor posture, repetitive stress injury, or vision issues.
How To Set Up An Ergonomic Work Space
Following a few simple rules when you set up your work space can make a big difference in your ability to work comfortably and healthfully.
- Maintain “neutral” posture. Neutral posture means you are able to sit up straight, looking straight ahead at the object of your work. The middle of your screen should be directly in front of your eyes. For most people this means monitors and screens need to be raised well above the level of the desk – usually 6 – 12 inches. You can purchase products that will place your monitor and keyboard at the correct height for your body, and can be adjusted to fit others who may need to use the workspace.
- Don’t be a turtle! If you are on a desktop, laptop, or tablet, avoid “turtle posture,” with your neck bent down and your back hunched, as this can create strain on your neck and back. Always try to raise screens to eye level for extended reading – if you are sitting on a couch or other low chair, this may mean using a pillow to prop up mobile devices.
- Reduce strain on hands and wrists. Prevent repetitive stress injuries to your wrists by “floating” them above the level of the keyboard. An adjustable keyboard with a “negative” setting, can help with this. When typing on tablets or mobile phones, either use voice recognition software to enter text, or use an external keyboard to avoid placing excessive stress on your hands. For more information on how to prevent repetitive stress injuries for hands and wrists, see here.
- Do not use mobile devices for extended periods. If you plan to work for an extended period of time, do not use your mobile devices for this purpose. Instead, work from an ergonomically designed work station. For extended phone calls on your mobile phone, a wireless headset will allow you to maintain neutral posture while listening and speaking. Limiting duration of texts and emails from your mobile devices or using voice recognition application to assist with input can also help.
- Invest in ergonomically friendly products. A wide range of ergonomically friendly products exists to help you perform your work more comfortably, whether you work from a desktop or mobile device. Manufacturers of desktop and mobile devices are also working hard to make their products more ergonomically friendly. Microsoft in particular placed a great deal of emphasis on the ergonomic redesign of its new Surface Pro 3 tablet, which has a larger screen size and redesigned kickstand to assist with maintaining neutral posture with eyes and wrists. Even with these improvements we still recommend incorporating the Surface into an ergonomically designed work station with a docking station for extended periods of work.
Why Ergonomics Matters To Your Business
Many small and medium size business owners often ask, “Why does ergonomics matter to me as a business owner?” Our response would be, that ergonomics matters because your employees’ health matters.
Studies show that about a third of L&I claims are related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), directly related to poor ergonomics in the workplace. On the flip side of that equation, well-designed workspaces with good ergonomics can lead to productivity improvements of 10 – 15%. Plus, employees will be happier and healthier, helping you with employee retention.
Ergonomics and Mobile Devices
As mobile devices become more capable, and businesses take more of their processes and workload mobile, we highly recommend keeping ergonomics in mind.
Got a question about ergonomics with your mobile devices or desktop workstations? Leave a message for us below!