Whether you are working in a 24/7 mission-critical work environment or from your home office, it is important to have an ergonomic posture to prevent injuries such as herniated discs, overall muscle weakness, metabolic syndrome, and musculoskeletal disorders among many others. Here are a few tips to help you understand how to sit or stand properly while working at your desk.
Ergonomic Arm Position
An aspect that is often overlooked when working at your desk is the position of your arms. The arms should be angled at 90 degrees and the desk should be set to the height of your forearms. Note that it is preferable to have the arms sit on the armrests rather than the surface itself to ensure the 90-degree angle is respected. A good way to determine if you have enough space is to move the chair up to the desk and see if the armrests can fit under the work surface. If it is not possible to fit the armrests below the chair, it might be better to opt for adjustable chairs or even better, an adjustable workstation.
Other advantages of height-adjustable workstations in the workplace are their versatility for being user-friendly. For instance, people that are shorter, taller, or have disabilities will have access to the same level of comfort at work. Standing desks also allows users to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
While working on a standing desk can help improve your position throughout the day, it is still important to make sure you are standing properly. For instance, the forearms must be bent at 90 degrees with the work surface. In other words, the height of the surface should be set to reach the height of your forearms.
Ergonomic Leg Position
Whenever you are working in a seated position, the desk should allow you to stretch your legs when rolling the chair underneath the surface. When working in a standing position, your feet and hips should be positioned in a straight line. It is recommended to breakdown your schedule into 20 minutes sessions for sitting and standing throughout the day.
Ergonomic Neck Position
A common mistake with people that work at their desks is to have their heads slightly forward to get a closer look at the monitors. However, this posture is known for causing strain on the neck muscles. You can correct this by bringing your neck back to its original position, looking ahead, and pushing the chin back as if holding something against it.
While it is helpful to have in mind your shoulder and neck posture, it can be highly beneficial to place the monitors correctly to help you keep an ergonomic posture throughout the day. Constantly having to look up and down to the monitors can create fatigue, pain, and muscle discomfort over time. The recommended viewing distance is anywhere between 50 and 100 centimeters from the eyes to the surface of the screen.
Whenever possible, it is also recommended to slightly tilt the monitor upward to 10-20. This can be achieved by having the monitors mounted to ergonomic LCD arms. The height of the monitors should be set in line with your eyes. If you are working with larger monitors, they should be set further away but not so far that you bring your neck forward to see better. Conversely, if the monitor is too close, it will put pressure on your eyes and push you to sit further away in an awkward position.
The position of elbows, wrists, and hands and how we use keyboards and mice is often overlooked. Not surprisingly, wrist pain is the third most common problem after eye and back strain. However, acquiring an ergonomic keyboard or mouse is also one of the most affordable investments to improve our posture at work.
The best way to use a keyboard is by keeping the hands parallel to each other in a neutral position. Most of us use the keyboard angled inwards or outwards which puts a strain on the wrists and can result in tennis or golfer’s elbow or wrist pain. This is often due to the small size of the keyboard. In order to keep a natural hand posture, it can be helpful to use the brackets of the keyboard or a small mat in front of the keyboard.
If it is difficult to have the hand parallel to each other, ergonomic keyboards have their keys separated from each other in order to allow the arms to rest in a straight line with your body rather than pulling inwards. Ergonomic keyboards can also be designed with an angled design or the "split design" where the keys are from each hand are separated for the forearms and wrists to sit in a more natural position.
The principle behind using the mouse properly is similar to the keyboard explained earlier. The goal is to have the hand sit on the mouse on a natural position to avoid any strain on the wrist. You can achieve this by having the fingers aligned on a straight position. Mouses designed with a lower profile can help avoid having a weird upward angle on the wrist. It is also important to know that it is better to move the mouse by moving the arm rather than the wrist. If you feel pain in the wrist at the end of a workday, purchasing an ergonomic mouse will definitely help you improve the hand posture. Here are a few examples of ergonomic mouses.
Trackball Mouse: Having a trackball is useful for those who tend to use their wrists to move the mouse on the computer. It uses an easy movement of the fingers to move the mouse and offer more precision. Trackballs are often used in 24/7 work environments where operators work long shifts.
Handshoe Mouse: Handshoe mouses are designed to fit the hand more naturally as if resting it. The mouse is slightly angled rather than rounded or flat to follow the natural position of the fingers. These are well known for helping to reduce wrist pain.
Verticle Mouse: As their name implies it, vertical mouses are designed to fit the hand as if it were sitting on the table naturally rather than being turned down. This also helps to reduce injuries in the wrists as it encourages users to move their arms to move the mouse.
In summary, having an ergonomic posture while working is the sum of the whole body posture, from the way you place your legs, arms, shoulders, neck, and hands. However, having the right ergonomic accessories can highly improve to keep the overall posture and avoid common injuries such as muscle strain. Sustema has over 20+ years designing and manufacturing ergonomic control room consoles for 24/7 work environments. We take pride in providing the most advanced console systems in terms of technology and ergonomy.