Thankfully, there’s a whole line of office furniture and equipment designed to make your workday a little less stressful. Find out how office ergonomics can make a difference in your physical health.
Your Quick Guide to
Ergonomics refers to the way humans interact with their work environment, in other words – is your computer keyboard in a place that doesn’t hurt your wrists, is your desk chair at a good height and angle to support your low back, and is your computer monitor at a height that keeps your neck in a neutral position?
Ergonomic Office Chairs
From kneeling chairs to balance balls, the office chair has seen quite a makeover. And for good reason, too. Sitting upright in a chair for hours on end can wreak havoc on your low back and hips. Any seating option that lets your hip muscles stretch in a different position will ease the strain on your low back.
Computer keyboards are frequently scrutinized as a common source of office worker wrist pain. The keyboard’s angle and even height can affect the way you hold your wrist.
Ergonomic keyboards come in a variety of shapes and styles. Most often, an ergonomic keyboard is split down the middle, giving each hand its own separate little pad of keys. The keys can also be displayed in a U-shape, rather than in straight rows.
You can even take an ergonomic mouse for a spin – fair warning, though: they tend to look like something sinister from a sci-fi flick. <-- Tweet this.
Ergonomic Monitors & Laptops
Your computer monitor needs to be at just the right height as well. Too high and you’re craning your neck back all day. Too low and you’re stretching forward the muscles in the back of your head, neck and upper back, which is the perfect atmosphere to create headaches. The best height for your computer monitor is where the top of the screen is level with your eyes.
Laptops are about the worst option when it comes to good ergonomic use of a computer: when your wrists are in a good position, your neck is bent down and forward; and when the monitor is in a prime spot, your arms and wrists will be twisted and hunched up.
The best bet with a laptop is to use an external keyboard that talks to your computer via Bluetooth technology and to set your laptop on a riser so it is at the perfect height. This way both your wrists and your neck can be in their own sweet spot.
The height of your desk will determine the angle of your arms when typing, as well as the placement of your monitor. We can’t forget standing desks! Standing desks let you stand at your workstation – often with a cushy mat underfoot – with your monitor and keyboard at optimum heights. Pair a standing desk with a tall chair and you can switch off sitting or standing as you please.
Ergonomic Foot Rests
Foot rests give subtle yet effective relief for feet, legs, hips and low backs. You can spend anywhere from $20 to well into the hundreds for an office foot rest. The higher end foot rests can have built-in foot massagers for an added note of office relaxation.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
Before you find yourself unable to type or stand without pain, do what you can to keep your body a well-oiled (and pain-free) machine. Find ways to keep your workstation from hurting you over time – your HR department is likely more interested in buying you an ergonomic keyboard now than paying out your worker’s comp when you get injured later. Try out some workplace wearables to take your office wellness to the next level.
Take regular breaks throughout your workday to walk – even just to the water cooler (drink some water while you’re there!) Stretch as much as possible throughout the day (look for simple exercises like these you can do at your desk), and talk to your HR department about bringing in chair massage. A quick 5-10 minute chair massage can do wonders for prevention of repetitive strain injuries in the workplace.