Checklist for Ergonomics in the Office and Work Place
We all know the feeling, it’s the end of the working week and we are ready to collapse on the couch and relax. Only to find that after two hours of ‘relaxing’ we have to pry ourselves up feeling stiff, sore and uncomfortable, thinking all the time why did I sit like that!!
Yet many of us spend the week at work with bad posture, seated in a static position with little to no movement.
The truth is the more we move, the better we feel and the more productive and creative we are.
The Office Ergonomics Checklist
The correct workstation set-up can reduce eye, arm, shoulder and neck fatigue.
When setting up our workstation the aim is for a neutral posture that feels natural and comfortable. Check in with yourself – do you feel strong or weak in that position?
A strong, neutral position minimises stress on the body and requires less energy expenditure.
A Neutral Position from Head to Toe
- Head: Position directly over shoulders without straining forward or backward. The maximum forward tilt of your head should never go past 20⁰ when scanning your screen.
- Neck: Keep relaxed with chin tucked in.
- Shoulders: Keep down with your chest open and wide.
- Elbows: Stay relaxed with a 90⁰ to 120⁰ angle.
- Back: Keep your torso upright or reclined slightly – this means a 90⁰ to 120⁰ angle at the hips. Maintain the slight natural curve of the lower back with a cushion.
If possible, alternate working in a standing position to ease the strain that sitting can put on your spine.
- Wrists: Relaxed and in a natural position, without flexing up or down.
- Hands: Relaxed while keeping fingers gently curved and supported.
- Knees: Slightly, lower than the hips with 2 or 3 fingers’ space between the back of the leg and the chair.
- Feet: Flat on the floor.
- A chair should be configurable and conform to your body, providing adequate lumbar and arm support while placing legs and feet in a neutral position. The seat should slope slightly forward to facilitate proper knee position.
- An adjustable chair – with tilt, rotation and caster wheels – can adapt to changes in position that your body naturally makes during the course of the day.
- Adjust the chair height so that the feet are comfortably flat on the floor, the thighs are approximately horizontal and the lower legs approximately vertical. Do not cross legs or ankles.
- The back rest should fit the curve of the lower back. It is important that the back rest is not placed too low.
- Start by setting the height of the back rest to its maximum height. If it is not comfortable lower the height by several centimeters and try the position.
- The back rest should place a comfortable pressure on the lower back while seated in the usual working posture and support a neutral position.
- There should be a two finger clearance between the font of the chair and the back of the knee.
- Trial a number of positions until the best fit is achieved.
- Arm rests are not recommended for computer based tasks unless they are well out of the way of the desk.
- The top surface of the desk should be just below elbow height which can be determined by relaxing your shoulders and bending your elbows to 90 degrees.
- The wrists should remain in a neutral position when typing.
- The keyboard should be as close to the front of the desk as possible.
- Do not place documents between the keyboard and the front edge of the desk when typing.
- Ensure there is room to put the keyboard to one side when it is not in use.
- When using the keyboard the upper arms and elbows should be close to the body with forearms, wrists and hands held straight in a neutral position and the forearms should be at 90 degrees to the upper arm.
- The center-line of the keyboard should be level with the height of your elbow.
- Tilt the keyboard back 10⁰ so that your wrists remain flat.
- The mouse pad should be placed as close to the keyboard as possible and at the same height as the keyboard to minimise over reaching.
- The screen should be positioned so that the top of the screen is level with or slightly lower than your eyes.
- If you wear bi-focal glasses, ensure the monitor position does not cause you to bend your neck.
- The screen should be approximately an arms length away from your usual seated position. The larger your screen the more distance you will want.
- Position whatever you are looking at most of the time directly in front of you to minimize turning your head.
- Avoid any glare or reflections from windows and overhead lights.
- If lighting conditions permit, tilt the monitor back 10⁰ to 20⁰: this maintains the same distance between your eyes and the screen as you scan it from top to bottom.
Rest, Stretch and Rejuvenate
- Rest your eyes periodically by focusing on an object 20+ feet away.
- Stand and stretch your back and arms from time to time.
- Voluntary motion relieves static posture and fatigue and improves circulation.
- Remember that if multiple people use a single keyboard, height adjustment becomes a paramount feature.
- If possible, alternate working in a standing position to ease the strain that sitting can put on your spine.
“…A person who works at a desk job might burn 300 calories during a work week, while those in jobs that require physical effort can burn 2,000 calories more. Sitting also harms circulation, leads to aches and pains and also increases the risk of diabetes, heart troubles and premature death,”
Brown, AMA to Offices: Don’t make workers sit all day