Tips to Improve Your Office Ergonomics and Posture

Office ergonomics are an extremely important factor in your health. Although the current workplace is ergonomically a much safer place than it was decades ago, the need for people to fully understand their own ergonomic needs remains a critical part of Occupational Health and Safety. The fact is that everyone has different ergonomic requirements. Everyone needs to set up their personal ergonomics to match their own needs. In some cases, ergonomic corrections can improve quality of life in the workplace considerably.

Important: It's absolutely essential to ensure good ergonomic practice for your health. Ergonomic issues can cause serious long term health problems, in some cases requiring years of remedial treatment and time off work. Ergonomic injuries are often extremely painful and debilitating.

Common causes of ergonomic problems

To improve your ergonomic situation, there are several "usual suspects" you'll need to consider:

Old office chairs: These are usually unbalanced, as a result of wear and tear. They tend to lean, and rather than adjusting the chair to yourself, you may find you're adjusting yourself to the chair. These chairs should be replaced ASAP. 

Old office desks: The old office desks weren't designed for computer usage. They're flat, without computer alcoves or adjustable keypad shelves. Again, it's a matter of adjusting yourself to them, which can put strain on the back, neck and arms. It's advisable not to use these desks if possible, and to replace them with modern workstations.        

Keypads: There are still keypads available which are "spring loaded" with a recoil which affects the fingers when using them. This spring effectively creates a double movement. Old cash registers are notorious for this effect. The old keypads have been known to cause severe Repetitive Strain Injury. A modern, soft response keypad is essential for heavy computer users. 

Picture tube monitors: Picture tubes use an enormous amount of electricity, and are known to cause headaches, eyestrain, and in some cases even severe dizziness. If you have one, it should be replaced with an LCD screen. 

Good posture is good ergonomics

If you're finding yourself feeling tired, getting headaches, or have consistent muscle and joint issues at work, you may well have an ergonomic problem related to posture, either caused by the way you sit or by equipment issues.

The basic ergonomic posture is:

Feet: Well balanced, comfortable, flat on the floor.

Hips: When seated, you're comfortable, can move easily and don't have to use force to move when working.

Back: Supported, sitting easily, no curvature or pressure on the spine.

Neck: Not hunched. If you touch type, your neck should be pressure free, not having to make unusual postural moves or sit in odd positions for any length of time.

Arms: Off the working surface, and you can easily type without strain with your hands suspended over the keyboard.

Keeping an eye on yourself ergonomically

A good standard of ergonomics means you're working comfortably. This is how to keep track of your ergonomic situation:

  1. Discomfort means something's out of position.
  2. Any particular area feeling pressure is probably slightly out of position.
  3. Try minor adjustments to relieve any problems as soon as you notice them.