What does staying healthy at the office mean to you?

We tend to think of staying healthy as avoiding germs, keeping our immunity levels high, and maybe even getting a flu shot to avoid problems.

But ergonomics can be a big factor in staying healthy at the office.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, ergonomics is the scientific study of people at work. The ultimate aim of ergonomics is to make office environments safer by reducing the stress on the body and eliminating injuries and painful conditions on the job.

Ergonomics can involve attention to overt dangers, such as chemical hazards, unprotected electrical wires, open drawers, and tripping hazards.

But it also applies to the less obvious dangers like dysfunctional equipment, too much noise, not enough ventilation, and poor task design.

Ergonomics also involves how people misuse their bodies while at work by overusing muscles, engaging in poor posture, and repeating the same tasks over and over again.

How Ergonomics Helps

An office that takes ergonomics into consideration benefits the worker in many ways. Not only does it reduce the odds of on-the-job accidents and injuries, it also assures that you are more comfortable. This can, in turn, make you more productive.

In order for an office to properly adopt ideal ergonomic features, the office needs to be designed in a way that employees do not have to over-reach, sit for too long, stand for too long, or use any awkward postures. Often, this can be accomplished by redesigning tasks, using certain types of equipment, and taking a break every hour.

An Ergonomic Office in Action

It isn’t all that difficult to turn an office into one that fits ergonomic standards. Per the Mayo Clinic, the following adjustments can help assure employees’ comfort and safety:

  • Correct Monitor Height: A computer monitor should be situated so that the top of the screen is at (or slightly below) eye level. The eyes should peer down when looking at the middle of the screen. If an employee uses bifocals, they may want to place the monitor below eye level and then tilt the screen upward between 30 degrees and 45 degrees. Not doing this can cause neck stain that may lead to long term headaches.
  • Correct Monitor Position: A computer monitor should be positioned at least 20 inches from the eyes. Some people use an arm’s length to find a suitable distance. If the computer screen is larger, a greater distance of a few more inches may be necessary. The screen should be adjusted to reduce or eliminate the glare from ceiling lights or windows.
  • Correct Keyboard Position: A computer keyboard’s center line should be level with the height of an employee’s elbow (when sitting at a computer desk). The keyboard should also be tilted back 10 degrees so that an employee’s wrist remains flat. This helps avoid wrist pain and back strain.
Other Things to Consider About Staying Healthy

Other ways to put ergonomics into action and reduce things like neck pain, muscle strain, and back soreness, include using an adjustable computer chair and adjusting it regularly; sitting up straight and practicing correct posture; taking a few minutes every hour to rest the eyes by focusing on objects that are farther than 20 feet away; standing up and stretching the back, arms, and legs; periodically adjusting the computer monitor and keyboard to help the body stay flexible; and using coffee and lunch breaks to take short, brisk walks.

About the Author: This article was written by Nurse Practitioner Laura Green. Laura specializes in urgent care, and treats lots of headaches and back aches from people who spend their work days in an office. If you think you are experiencing an on the job injury, click here.