Effective Workstation Ergomonics
Posture check! Are you slouching or hunching while reading this?
Maintaining a good posture is one of the best ways to prevent back pain. For people whose job requires a large amount of time spent in front of a computer, effective workstation ergonomics can be the key to keep our backs pain-free and our bodies healthy. While posture plays a large role in how the body feels after a long day at the office, placing equipment and seating at the proper angles can help us naturally align in a more efficient and beneficial way for maximum comfort and stamina at the workplace. 
Here is a four-step checklist that you can carry out at your workstation, to make sure you’re comfortable, safe and productive at the office.
STEP 1: Your Chair
- Push your hips as far back as they can go in the chair.
- Adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor or on a foot rest. Your knees should be slightly lower than, your hips.
- Adjust the back of the chair to a 100°-110° reclined angle. Make sure your upper and lower back are supported. Use inflatable cushions or small pillows if necessary to create the correct lower back support.
- Adjust the armrests (if fitted) so that your shoulders are relaxed. If your armrests are in the way, remove them. [2,3]
STEP 2: Your Keyboard
- Pull up close to your keyboard.
- Position the keyboard directly in front of your body.
- Determine what section of the keyboard you use most frequently, and readjust the keyboard so that section is centered with your body.
- Adjust the keyboard height so that your shoulders are relaxed, your elbows are in a slightly open position (100° to 110°), and your wrists and hands are straight.
- Tilt of the keyboard is dependent upon your sitting position. Use the keyboard tray mechanism, or keyboard feet, to adjust the tilt.
- A Wrist pad can help to maintain neutral postures and pad hard surfaces. However, the wrist pad should only be used to rest the palms of the hands between keystrokes.
- Place the mouse as close as possible to the keyboard.
- Ensure the mouse fits comfortably in the hand to minimise any undue pressure on the wrist and forearm consider operating the device with the non-dominant hand. Change this operating preference on the computer settings [2,3]
STEP 3: Screen, Document, and Telephone
Incorrect positioning of the screen and paperwork can result in awkward postures. Adjust the screen and paperwork so that your neck is in a neutral, relaxed position.
- Centre the screen directly in front of you, above your keyboard.
- Position the top of the screen approximately 2/3 above seated eye level. (If you wear bifocals, lower the screen to a comfortable reading level.)
- Sit at least an arm’s length away from the screen and then adjust the distance for your vision.
- Reduce glare by careful positioning of the screen. Position paperwork directly in front of you, between the screen and the keyboard, using an in-line copy stand. If there is insufficient space, place paperwork on a document holder positioned adjacent to the screen.
- Place screen at right angles to windows
- Adjust curtains or blinds as needed
- Other techniques to reduce glare include use of optical glass glare filters, light filters, or secondary task lights
- Place your telephone within easy reach. Telephone stands can help.
- Use headsets and speaker phone to eliminate cradling the handset. [2,3]
STEP 4: Pauses and Breaks
Once you have correctly set up your computer workstation use good work habits. No matter how perfect the environment, prolonged, static postures will inhibit blood circulation and take a toll on your body.
- Take short 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes. After each hour of work, take a break or change tasks for at least 5-10 minutes. Always try to get away from your computer during lunch breaks.
- Stretching exercises help to relax muscles which have been working and move those which have been in a fixed position. If possible, stand up to do your stretches. [2-4]
You can read more about stretching in our April 2016 post about the importance of stretching.
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