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The nature of your career might force you to spend hours on end seated facing a computer. But, that does not mean you are doomed to a lifetime of backache, wrist pain, and sore fingers. You can avoid such workplace health risks by ergonomically designing your workstation.

Are you wondering how to do that?

Simple moves like using a correct chair, placing accessories like keyboards and documents correctly, and setting up ergonomically designed desks can help you avoid getting injured. This guide will help you to make your workstation more ergonomic and comfortable.

The chair

Since you spend 95% of the time at the office seated, it is only appropriate to start with the chair. An ergonomically designed office chair provides proper lumbar and pelvic support. It results in a better posture, less fatigue, and makes breathing easier. Of course, if you can invest in a stand up desk that can also adjust to a normal desk that would be better still.

A good chair should have an adjustable height. Anyone who uses it should adjust such that the feet lie flat on the floor and the knees are at the same level or slightly lower than the hips. The back shouldn’t be at 90o. It should incline slightly, at about 100° or 110°. If the chair does not support the upper and lower back, you can use inflatable cushions to make this happen. If it has armrests, they should support your shoulders to rest, and if they bother you, remove them.

Keyboard and mouse

A typical office will have a computer, of which the main input appliances are the keyboard and mouse. Both should be close to your body at positions that do not warrant awkward stretching or straining of the body, especially the neck.

The keyboard and mouse are critical. The surface you place the keyboard on should have a mechanism to adjust the height and tilt. It should be directly in front of your body. Not too far or too low so that your shoulders and elbows are relaxed. Your upper arms should be straight and close to your body. Elbows, on the other hand, should not bend up. They should be slightly open (at about 110°), and the wrists and hands should be straight. Adjust the keyboard tilt also to suit your preferred sitting position. On the other hand, you could maximize the use of keyboard shortcuts to reduce the use of the mouse.

The monitor

Whenever you are working on the keyboard, you will be watching the monitor. Incorrect positioning of the monitor will result in straining of the neck. Place it at a point behind the keyboard where your neck is relaxed. It shouldn’t be too far from your eyes, an arm’s length is sufficient. On the other hand, don’t place it too high or too low. Place it slightly below eye level and away from a bright light.

Other key objects

Apart from the keyboard, mouse, and screen, you will frequently require access to items like the telephone, printed documents, and other stationery like staplers. Place them directly in front of you in the space between the monitor and keyboard. The telephone should also be within an arm’s length and directly in front of you. If possible you can eliminate the need to reach for the handset by using a headset or a speakerphone.

Footrest

If you have an adjustable chair, you do not need a footrest. Adjust the seat to a height you can comfortably rest your feet on the floor. However, if the chair is too high, you will need a footrest. If one is not available, try stacking some books or a small stool. Make sure the height allows your feet and legs to rest.

Desk height

The desk height should be just right. Too low would be impractical and injurious. Too high would be unproductive and strenuous. If the desk height is not adjustable, and it’s too high, adjust the level of the chair and use a footrest to support your feet. If it’s too low, look for ways to raise the level. For example, you could place sturdy blocks under the table legs.

Pause and take breaks

Avoiding getting injured when doing any work is not just about how you position equipment and tools. Good work habits will go a long way in reinforcing your efforts at establishing an ergonomic workstation. It doesn’t matter how well-suited the workstation is, prolonged static postures will take a toll on your body.

Take frequent breaks. Move away from your desk and walk around the office building for about 1-2 minutes. It will promote good circulation as well as better mental health. Also, rest your eyes and massage them briefly after about 30 minutes of continuous staring at the screen. It will prevent eye fatigue and allow you to think. Remember to use correct body posture when working.

A final word on office ergonomics

Creating an ergonomic office is like preparing a special recipe. Consider the measures in this ergonomics guide as the ingredients. Preparing the meal entails a lot more than mixing the components. It involves cooking and tasting until you get the right flavor.

Ensure you have the right equipment and position them correctly. Then adjust and fit until you develop the perfect office.