You know that aching back? You know the headaches? These could be caused by your work station. Although you may not feel particularly uncomfortable, those who spend much of their time at work seated could be at risk of picking up different injuries just from how they are sitting or using their computer. This is why it is imperative to know about ergonomic awareness.
DSE regulations were introduced in 1992 to protect the health and safety of those who have desk-based jobs. They specifically set out to prevent:
- Discomfort – usually in the back, neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Often due to awkward posture or lack of stability.
- Stress – this is a reaction to pressure and demands which can lead to depression, anxiety and some illnesses (particularly related to digestion).
- Visual discomfort – blurry and sore eyes, as well as visual fatigue and headaches are associated with jobs where you use a computer often.
Tips for Best Posture
Don’t feel like you are making a fuss by taking the time to adjust your work chair appropriately. One that can be tweaked to suit your frame is ideal and could save you from aches and pains in the future.
Good posture when seated should follow:
- Feet flat on the floor and not resting on castors
- You can use a foot rest if you cannot reach the floor
- Thighs level and knees bent naturally at around a 45-degree angle
- If your chair has lumbar support, move this up or down to suit your back
- If not, tilt slightly forward so that your hips are a fraction higher than your knees
- Elbows, shoulders and upper arms should be relaxed and support by armrests on the chair
- If you move frequently you may benefit from setting your chair into ‘free-float’
Once your chair is suitably adjusted for your body and desk it is important to position the things you make the most use of on your desk appropriately. You should never be twisting your back or neck to access items or over-stretching.
Your screen should be directly in front of you when you use it. If it measures up to 17 inches in size your eyes should be level with the top of the screen. You can use different stands to achieve this or some computers are adjustable. Screens bigger than 17 inches are often okay to stand directly on the desk. Whatever the size of the screen it should be an arm’s length away from you.
For those who have a two screen set-up follow the same rules as above. However, either have the screens side by side or the more dominant screen directly in front and the other slightly to the side.
A wrist rest is not necessary and these should only be used when you aren’t typing. Your keyboard should be directly in front of you and positioned to whatever is most comfortable for your arms. Most keyboards are adjustable using the small legs at the back.
When using your mouse your arm should be relaxed and beside your body. It is okay to have part of your arm resting on the table. If you do not use the number pad on your keyboard you could get a shorter keyboard to allow for easier mouse use.
Your desk phone should be a comfortable distance away. Do not cradle the phone between your ear and your shoulder if you need to type. Either do it one handed or, if this is a regular part of your job, use a headset instead.
Breaks and Keep Moving
Sitting at your desk for hours on end without a break is going to cause you issues. It is recommended to take a break every 60 minutes so get the kettle on, do some photocopying, or head to a meeting. It can also be beneficial to tweak the position of your chair during the day to make sure you are sitting correctly.
Being aware of work station ergonomics will help make your days at work much more comfortable. It can be extremely draining sitting at your desk with an aching back or tired eyes so take the time to get everything correct for yourself from the get go.