A study into screen time whilst at work has revealed that the typical employee will spend an average of 6.5 hours every day sitting in front of a computer. This can result in sore backs, stiff necks from craning your head to look at a computer, tired, dry eyes and a host of other physical complaints. Workers who are uncomfortable spend more time away from their desk, affecting overall productivity. A 2017 study of more than 12,000 workers across 17 countries found that disliking your office environment is a major reason for pulling a sickie.
As millions of Australians begin working from home in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the aim to create a comfortable, functional workspace is now more important than ever. Taking some time to set up your home workspace with office ergonomics in mind can help boost productivity and efficiency, whilst minimising the impact on the your body. So what are the most important considerations of ergonomics in office furniture?
Your desk chair is the most important and used piece of office furniture. Workers sit at their desks for hours at a time, without moving. A bad chair can produce different aches and pains that over time can develop into more serious problems, like Repetitive Stress Injury or Chronic Back Pain. Chairs are usually a one size fits all product, but the good ones will have multiple adjustable parts to ensure that you can mould it to your body. Once it is properly adjusted it should be comfortable enough that you don’t even need to think about doing anything when you sit down.
The second most important factor in office ergonomics is the height of your desk/computer relative to your chair. Even the most advanced chair cannot help posture if a worker has to bend or strain their neck upwards to look at the computer screen. When sitting, the top of your monitor should be at eye level or just below it, with your elbows at a 90° angle and close to your body, and your wrists straight. Your knees should also be level with your hips, so ensure the desk you use is high enough for you to comfortably sit underneath, and use a footrest if needed.
If you find yourself with a sore neck looking down at your computer screen and don’t have an adjustable standing desk available, a simple solution is to place a document holder or a stack of A4 paper underneath your computer monitor to raise it two or three inches. This will immediately reduce any neck strain.
Once you are comfortably seated with your computer screen at an ideal height, think about the placement of your keyboard and mouse. The keyboard and the mouse should be close enough to prevent excessive reaching which strains the shoulders and arms, and directly in front of the monitor so you don’t have to frequently turn your head and neck. It is also important to make sure the weight of your arms is supported at all times. If your arms are not supported, the muscles of your neck and shoulders will be crying by the end of the day.
Although the above steps will help you to create a comfortable workspace to increase productivity and reduce strain on the body, don’t forget to take regular stretch breaks and avoid prolonged periods of sitting at your desk.
If you have just started working from home, be sure to check out our 5 essential tips to setting up a successful home office.