Workplace Ergonomics Explained

How much of your day is spent seated? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, out of all civilian jobs in 2016, 39.0% of the workday is spent sitting. Imagine the percentage in 2020, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sitting itself isn’t bad for you, but the repetitive stress of prolonged seated work can affect the wrist, head, neck, shoulder, back, and legs as well as your overall health, mortality, and more.

It’s easy to forget about ergonomics if you’re very involved in work or have been suddenly tasked with working remotely. If this is you, here are some ways you can improve your work experience.

What’s the best way to set up my workspace?

  • Your chair should support your back and its spinal curves.

  • Your feet should be resting comfortably flat on the ground.

    • If the chair is too high, use a footrest if possible.

  • Your desk should be tall enough so that your knees fit under the table, and low enough that the top of the monitor is level with your line of vision an arm’s length away.

    • Adjustments can be made by raising the desk or the monitor with something sturdy.

  • When using the keyboard, your arms should be placed close to your body with elbows slightly higher than the level of your hands and straight wrists.

It’s great to have the ideal ergonomic setup, but also very healthy and helpful to take breaks, change positions following the old saying “movement is medicine.” You can do this by changing your posture or by sitting upright periodically, and you can set yourself reminders to take 5-15 minute movement breaks.


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Is a standing desk necessary?

Studies show that there may be a benefit to sit-stand desks. We’ve talked about changing your positioning daily. Ergonomic education and sit-stand desks allow people to be able to mitigate discomforts by having the ability to change positions and vary posture throughout the workday.

 How often should I move around while working?

As often as possible. There are many options and no strict protocol. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking. The American Journal of Epidemiology reported in a study that mortality was more positively affected by adding exercise than it was for reducing the bouts of sedentary sitting. The study showed that 30 minutes of physical activity per day can counteract a day of sitting. It shows improvements can be made by the addition of light to moderate activity in your day. Thus, if you cannot get up to move around often during work, continue to treat your body with any form of exercise.

 What can I add to my day to relieve the stress of sitting?

There are so many ergonomic items of choice to purchase online. Footrests, chairs, back cushions, and all. However, for free you can add a bit of movement. Remember just 15 minutes of mobility or a stretch per day, any option can certainly go a long way.

 Regardless of your work environment, you can make ergonomic changes to reduce overall stress to your body.

 References:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Standing or walking versus sitting on the job in 2016 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2017/standing-or-walking-versus-sitting-on-the-job-in-2016.htm (visited July 28, 2020).

Robertson MM, Ciriello VM, Garabet AM. Office ergonomics training and a sit-stand workstation: Effects on musculoskeletal and visual symptoms and performance of office workers. Applied Ergonomics. 2013;44(1):73-85. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2012.05.001

Keith M Diaz, Andrea T Duran, Natalie Colabianchi, Suzanne E Judd, Virginia J Howard, Steven P Hooker, Potential Effects on Mortality of Replacing Sedentary Time With Short Sedentary Bouts or Physical Activity: A National Cohort Study, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 188, Issue 3, March 2019, Pages 537–544, https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwy271

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