Spoiler alert! Ergonomics is not the most exciting topic. It’s somewhere on the boring scale between watching a chicken turn on a rotisserie and the color of wheat. Read on, though, because chances are if you spend any time at a desk, this information applies to your health.
Simply stated, ergonomics can be defined as the relationship between workers and their workspace. (Yawn!) More specifically, ergonomics refers to the science of designing tasks, tools, equipment and information to precisely fit each employee to maximize productivity and limit fatigue and injury. That’s actually a pretty cool concept. Do I still have your attention?
Whether you love your job, or think it’s a royal pain in the neck, improper ergonomics can not only lead to acute health issues, like headaches and neck strain, but over time can also lead to chronic disability. Check out these common factors and symptoms to find out if your job is more than just a figurative pain in the…neck.
- Repetitive movements
- Excessive force
- Prolonged awkward and improper postures
- Inadequate recovery and rest time
- Back, neck and/or shoulder pain
- Discomfort in the hands and wrists
- Eye strain
- Pain, numbness and swelling in affected areas
Problems and Solutions
If you’re experiencing anything on that list, do this NOW: Stop reading this blog, and go for a walk.
You’re back. I hope you enjoyed some fresh air. Now, take a closer look at some of the more common health concerns associated with poor ergonomics, and some simple ways you can combat them, in addition to fresh air and movement.
I won’t judge you if you want to continue to tell your kids that they’ll go blind if they don’t stop staring at the iPad, but… Permanent eye damage has not been directly linked to staring at a computer screen for an extended period of time. However, other vision-related symptoms can be caused by improper ergonomics. These include headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and loss of focus.
The Mayo Clinic advises the 20-20-20 rule. That means every 20 minutes, give your eyes a 20 second break and focus on something 20 feet away. Stand up while you’re at it, and remember your screen should be 18-30 inches away.
About that literal pain in the neck – the placement of your monitor is key to kicking this symptom. Too high, too low, off to the side, all of these positions can cause a stiff, tight and achy neck, which contributes to those tension headaches you’ve been getting.
Adjust the position of your monitor so the top of the screen is at or below eye level. Also, remember you should never have to contort your body into something only advanced Yogis do, just to see your screen. No twisting!
Don’t hate me, but I’m going to be the posture police for just a minute. It’s going to be awkward and uncomfortable and maybe a little condescending, but for the love of ligaments, SIT UP STRAIGHT. Slumping and slouching lead to stiffness and inflammation (and just look plain, old sloppy).
In addition to sitting up straight, your feet should always touch the floor, and always aim for a 90 degree bend at the knee. Recap: sit up straight, feet on floor, shoulders back and down. Give it try. You might be surprised how this new-found posture boosts your confidence. I’m done being your mother. Now, on to arms and wrists.
Arms and Wrists
Heard of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)? Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI)? Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTD)? No, I’m not testing your knowledge of acronyms. These are all real conditions that can be completely preventable with proper ergonomics. This is a big one. Ignoring symptoms can lead to weakening muscles and irreparable nerve damage. Irreparable! Move your keyboard, already!
In fact, move it so it’s slightly below elbow height, and parallel to your forearms. Your wrists should always be straight when typing. If your keyboard has those cute little feet, remove them, or put them in the down position. If you need cute, little feet, click here.
Congratulations, you made it through an entire article on ergonomics. Like I said, not the most exciting of topics, but definitely important to your health and workplace productivity. Visit us at CTC Productivity for more tips on how to be more productive, improve job satisfaction and obtain optimal work/life balance. But first, stand up, focus your eyes and shake your body. After reading about ergonomics, you deserve a break!