Ergonomics is the study of people's efficiency in the workplace. There are five focuses of ergonomics: safety, comfort, ease of use, productivity/performance, and aesthetics. The proper ergonomic design of a work area will ensure workers can comfortably complete their tasks without physical harm. With the increase of employees working from home, knowledge of good ergonomics in these new makeshift work areas is essential.
Ignoring ergonomics can result in several health issues. Bad ergonomics can result in pain in the hands, wrists, shoulders, neck, back, head, and eyes. If left uncorrected, a person can develop carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, tendon injury, muscle strain, increased stress, and depression.
When setting up a home office or work area, some items require special attention to ergonomics. Avoiding problems is much easier than dealing with orthopedic therapy or even surgery needed once you have developed any of the above-listed issues. Here are some of the areas to focus on when setting up a home office.
Are you sitting cross-legged on a bed, hunched over a laptop to complete your work? You are setting yourself up for some real pain. A proper work desk is required. Working at a desk for hours every day requires a comfortable office chair that adequately suits the user's needs. An office chair needs to be comfortable, of course, but it also needs to provide proper lumbar and neck support. The chair needs to be set at the correct height and angle to prevent eye and neck strain.
Do not sit with your legs up against drawers or cabinets. Legs need room to stretch. Hunching forward over paperwork or looking at a monitor can increase weight and pressure placed on the legs, thighs, and feet, straining the neck, back, and shoulders.
When sitting in your work chair, your feet should be flat on the floor with your thighs parallel to the floor. If that's not possible due to your physical height or the chair's height, use a footrest. In an emergency, a stack of books will work.
Computer Screen Position
The position of the computer screen is essential in preventing neck, eye, and back strain. A computer screen should be placed at arm's length from the worker and at eye level. Lower the screen 1-2 inches if you wear bifocals.
Natural light is better on the eyes than artificial light. To reduce glare, lighting should originate from the side instead of behind or in front of the computer. The computer screen should be brighter than the surrounding light so adjust blinds or shades accordingly.
The keyboard should be positioned, so you don't have to stretch to reach the keys. Your wrists should be straight while you type or use a mouse. Do not allow your wrists or lower arm to rest against the edge of the work surface. The edge places pressure on the nerves causing tingling and numbness. Use a pad on the edge or change the position of your wrists.
Using proper ergonomics at home for work and entertainment (movie streaming or playing video games) will prevent health issues. If you are experiencing pain and would like to be evaluated, contact Dr. Dan Albright, an orthopedic surgeon. Contact us at 919-863-6808 and set up an appointment.