June 29, 2021

The goal of ergonomics is to make work more comfortable and improve both health and wellbeing, ultimately resulting in a happier and more productive workplace. Sometimes, when ergonomic issues develop, they can be remedied by rearranging, adjusting or modifying existing furniture and tools. On the other hand, if you find yourself developing hand, back or shoulder injuries at work no matter how you configure your set-up, it may be time to consider upgrading to more ergonomic friendly office equipment. . 

TIP SHEET: Back care and Chair setup

We know that sitting for long periods can have negative consequences for our health, and that regular breaks along with standing for part of your day can help to prevent and relieve aches and pains when they occur. However, often sitting cannot be avoided, at which times it is important to ensure that your office chair is set-up to provide optimal support for your back.

To set-up your office chair correctly, follow these simple steps:

Adjusting the Chair Height
Sit up straight on your chair, roll your shoulders up and back and allow your arms to hang loosely by your sides. Make a right angle at your elbow and keep your wrist straight. The underside of your hand should now sit naturally on top of your keyboard. If it is not then adjust your chair up or down to enable your hand to rest on the keyboard. (do not adjust your arms or hands!)

Other Chair Adjustments
Adjust the back-rest of your chair in or out and up and down until you experience the optimum lumbar support. It should be both firm and comfortable, while providing support for the natural curve of your back. And if your chair has a sliding seat mechanism, slide it in or out so that the depth of the seat feels just right for you. Ensure the angle of base of the seat is either neutral or tilting slightly forward so as to make sure the front of the chair is not pushing into your thighs and cutting off blood circulation.

Remember, no chair, no matter how well it’s set up can prevent you from slouching unless you proactively sit with correct posture. The key is to be mindful of your posture at all times, making sure that your spine remains lifted, with your shoulders rounded back.

Steps for setting up your workspace

First, take a moment and roll your shoulders back and relax. Adjust the chair height so that your elbows are approximately at the same level as your desk.

If your feet don't comfortably reach the floor, or if there is pressure on the backs of your legs, use a footrest to elevate your legs so that your upper legs are approximately at right angles with you lower legs.

If your chair seat has a tilt feature, experiment with adjusting the tilt to see if sitting at a slightly forward angle improves your sitting posture.

Position your monitor so the top third of the viewing area is at or below eye level. Use a monitor arm to help facilitate the correct positioning of your monitor. As long as you can clearly view the screen contents there is no specific distance that you need to be from the monitor.

Ensure that your wrists are straight. Use wrist rest if required, and if you have armrests try to adjust them so they support your arms without beings too high or too low.

Position the mouse as close as is practical to the keyboard, so that both elbows are directly under the shoulders while working. If this is not possible you may need to consider purchasing a mini keyboard. A mini keyboard still has full size keys but is much more compact than conventional keyboards and this feature enables your arms to be in alignment with your shoulders.

Reduce stress on your neck and shoulders when working from paper documents by using a document holder that can be placed between the keyboard and monitor or on the monitor itself.

Use a phone headset if you need to use the computer while talking on the phone, this will help avoid neck and shoulder strain.

Use your mouse pad or a wrist rest to pad the edge of your desk to avoid pressing your hands or forearms against any desk edge.

Adjust screen brightness and contrast for clear comfortable viewing, and clean the screen regularly. Also remember the 20-20-20 rule: look away from the monitor every 20 minutes to a distance of 20 metres for 20 seconds. This helps avoid eye strain.

Consider purchasing a height adjustable desk so that you can stand while working, thus breaking the unhealthy habit of sitting in one position for lengthy periods of time.

Invest in a quality ergonomic chair if your chair does not give you the support that you need. Think about it, when you total the number of hours the average office worker spends sitting in a chair at work,  it adds up to around ten years of their life.

Finally and very importantly remember to take breaks regularly preferably every 45 minutes to an hour for 1 or 2 minutes. Go get a glass of water talk to a colleague etc.