Many people who work sitting for hours probably experience this: tension in the neck, discomfort in the back or pain in the shoulders. This is often combined with fatigue and exhaustion, as well as other typical office ailments, such as headaches, burning eyes, heavy legs, etc.
However, this does not have to be the case and many of these complaints could be avoided with good ergonomics in the office workplace.
What does an ergonomically friendly workspace look like?
The main sore point for poor ergonomics is usually the office chair. Next is usually the monitor, followed by the mouse and keyboard.
However, good ergonomics in the workplace is not just about these objects, but rather how they are placed and how this can create better productivity and a more pleasant working environment. So, the entire office needs to be considered for better ergonomics in the workplace.
By implementing the following points, you will have taken important steps towards an ergonomic office and a better sense of well-being. It’s mainly about these nine topics:
- OFFICE CHAIR
- WORK SURFACE
- LOCATION / LIGHT INCIDENCE
- ROOM CLIMATE
Usually, everyone already has an office chair, whether it is ergonomic or not is questionable.
Someone wanting to buy a new desk chair faces the daunting challenge of more than 1001 choices! For a layperson, it is difficult to maintain an overview and find a suitable solution.
Marketing tactics and attractive brochures can make it relatively easy to be fooled into believing that an office chair is ergonomic, when in fact it is not, resulting in pain afterwards.
There are also enormous differences in price, from a low of $25 to well over $2000. Even if someone buys an ergonomic office chair for $1000 it is not necessarily suitable for good ergonomics in the workplace.
Before buying an ergonomic desk chair, I recommend testing it, preferably at your own workplace, for at least one week. This way, your own body will give you the answer as to whether it is a good solution or not.
In an office chair, the following factors must be considered:
- Seat height
- Angle of inclination of the backrest
- Lumbar support in the lumbar region (lower back)
The seat height should be adjusted so that when your feet are firmly on the floor, your thighs are horizontal or slightly higher than your knees when you sit. This gives you a proper sitting position.
If possible, the backrest should be set to move freely. In other words, do not lock the backrest! This keeps your back moving and is medicine for your intervertebral discs, back muscles and nervous system. Here it is crucial that your backrest generates enough counterpressure so that you can lean back optimally and still experience a pleasant rocking function.
For an ergonomically friendly workspace, your backrest should definitely provide good support for your lumbar region or lower back. Your spine should remain in its natural S-shape. Using a rolled-up towel, a small pillow or even better, professional support cushions can make a profound positive change in the lumbar area without much effort and ensure a natural spine position. By doing so, you often solve a major back pain problem forever.
Are armrests important for more ergonomics in the office workplace?
Armrests proved support for the forearms, relieving the shoulders of tension. In addition, armrests help by providing support when getting up from the office chair. Ideally, you should use height-adjustable armrests.
Armrests should place your elbow at a 90° angle and be at the same height as your work surface, thereby creating an extension of the support surface for your forearms.
However, there is often a conflict with armrests and the desk. If the armrests are too high or come too far forward, they can prevent you from getting close enough to the edge of the desk, which severely limits the work ergonomics. If you are constantly hindered by the armrests and you cannot adjust them in any other way, I advise you to unscrew the armrests from the office chair. Now you can support yourself directly with your forearms on the table surface.
If you still want a larger support surface for your arms or do not have armrests on your office chair, there are ingenious solutions that will help to promote an ergonomic workspace.
Here, you should first make sure that your desk is deep enough, has the right height, and provides enough legroom underneath.
As a rule of thumb, your desk height should be between 29-30 inches (74-76 cm) high, although this may vary depending on your own height.
- The table height is determined by your correct sitting position, as explained in the text above.
- For the table depth, you should be able to place a monitor, laptop or notebook and keyboard without any problems. The rule for the distance from your eyes to the screen is that you can touch the screen with an outstretched arm from your sitting position.
- The legroom should not have any cables hanging down in the foot area, nor have garbage or other objects to get in your way.
If you don’t have a height-adjustable desk, try to see if adjustable screws in the feet can be used to accommodate the desk to your desired height. If the desk is too low, wooden blocks, bricks, etc. can raise the table surface higher. Make sure that the table is still stable and that there is no risk of it tipping over.
To ensure good ergonomics in the workplace, you should alternate between sitting and standing. The ideal solution here would be a height-adjustable desk. If you don’t have one, you may be able to perform certain tasks on a higher piece of furniture or place a box on your desk so you can continue working comfortably in a standing position. For example, I try to make my phone calls standing up, which automatically encourages me to change my sitting-standing position often.
We work hours and hours in front of the screen and must pay special attention to correct ergonomics.
Many people make the mistake, especially in the home office, of working exclusively with their laptop. I highly recommend adding a full-size monitor to your desk. These displays don’t cost an enormous amount of money but do an excellent job of enhancing the ergonomics in the office workplace.
With a notebook or laptop, the built-in screen is basically too low and neck complaints quickly arise when working for longer periods of time. Even with the built-in keyboard, it’s not really possible to work ergonomically. Use an external keyboard instead.
Connect an external screen to your laptop and place the large screen directly in front of you, not too much to the left, right or even angled. Again, the distance to the monitor should be an outstretched arm’s length.
If you are working with two monitors, it is important that you do not turn unnaturally but are always well aligned with the active monitor. Otherwise, neck and shoulder tension can occur.
If you only want to work with the laptop, without an external screen, then at least use a notebook stand, which raises the display to eye level. For writing, you will certainly need an external keyboard and mouse. These improvements will foster good ergonomics in the workplace.
I love working with Apple’s Magic Mouse, as it promotes efficient work productivity. But, unfortunately, I have to admit that the Magic Mouse is not really an ergonomic mouse and can easily create problems for sensitive wrists, such as tendinitis. Therefore, I always work with a mouse pad.
Vertical mice, which are available in many variants, are especially recommended. Especially ergonomic are the vertical mice that have individual adjustments, such as the position of the thumb or the angle of inclination.
For better ergonomics in the workplace a wireless mouse certainly helps, so that a cable does not restrict freedom of movement of the mouse.
For classic mice, be sure to use a wrist pad so that your wrist is in a horizontal position and not a bent position.
The same applies to the keyboard as to the mouse. If possible, use a wireless keyboard so that you can work ergonomically and not be hindered by the cable.
If you want to use a split keyboard, a keyboard with a part of the board on the left and part on the right, be sure to use a support pad for each. It will take a bit of getting used to, but is very desirable from an ergonomic point of view.
One of the main faults with the keyboard is the bent position of the wrists on the desk. You should use a palm or wrist support and make sure that the keyboard is flat and not too steeply inclined so that the wrists remain horizontal.
LOCATION / INCIDENCE OF LIGHT
Any ergonomically friendly workspace requires the correct orientation of the desk in relation to the incidence of light.
Sunlight directly on the screen should always be avoided. The reverse is also true, sunlight behind the screen. If you place the monitor against a window and look directly into the sun, this creates too great contrast for the eyes and should be avoided.
The ideal positioning of the screen should be such that the incidence of light comes from the side and does not create a reflection on the monitor.
If your office layout allows it, avoid sitting with your back to people entering. It also has to do with ergonomics, you can see what is happening around you and you can work on confidential documents on the screen without stress.
Lack of or flickering lighting creates fatigue and poor concentration.
Make sure your workplace always has enough light, even during the day, regardless of the weather.
Daylight is the most popular source of light. If insufficient, it is worthwhile to purchase a lamp. This should produce enough lumens, at least 500 lux, or even better 1000 lux.
Bright light colors promote concentration and improve mental performance, whereas yellowish light tires people more quickly.
With several lamps you can create a mix of indirect and direct lighting.
People often work in rooms that are too warm and too dry, which has negative consequences for the mucous membranes and can cause all kinds of complaints.
In addition, many offices are not ventilated enough, too little fresh air flows in and pollutants are whirled around by the printers.
Simple means to provide more oxygen are plants that produce a lot of oxygen and clean the air. Ask a gardener for advice here, because there are also plants that are unsuitable for offices and can trigger allergies.
For a good indoor climate and optimal ergonomics in the workplace, the noise level is also important. Noise can make you ill and also hinders concentration.
The above-mentioned plants have a positive additional effect here by dampening the sound and thus ensuring less room echo.
For larger noise sources, there are various acoustic solutions, such as standing walls, add-on walls for desks or noise-absorbing panels for hanging on the wall.
A good trick for minimizing noise is a curtain, the thicker the better. Furniture or fabric-covered objects in general provide additional insulation from noise.
On my desk there is always a full drinking glass and a water bottle close by. I know only too well that people generally drink too little and that this has a negative effect on the body.
Sufficient liquid strengthens the immune system, cleanses the body, and definitely promotes better ergonomics in the office workplace.
The best source of liquid is water. Avoid sweet drinks or other drinks with artificial additives.
I hope that this guide will help you to create an ergonomic office, in which it is a pleasure to work, so that you can still be fit after a long working day.
If you don’t know where to start, start with the office chair and fluids. These can both be implemented immediately and will inevitably increase your well-being.
It is also important to continually strive to make improvements to ergonomics in the workplace.
If you want even more information, my book “Wellness in the Office” has a total of 51 detailed tips to help you turn your office into a little paradise.