A Healthy Workspace – Workstation Ergonomics 101

We spend a lot of time at our desks these days so it is important to create a healthy workspace.  Setting up our workstations correctly can help minimise the risk of wrist, neck, shoulder & back pain.  Here are few simple rules to ensure your office space is set up correctly:

  1. Check your chair

    Ensure your chair is adjusted correctly so that you are not sitting too forward or too high. Lean back and unlock the backrest. Adjust the tension in your chair so the backrest can support your movements as you work.  It is important to ensure your chair is supporting your lower back.  Use a lumbar pillow if necessary.

  2. Feet flat on the floor

    Your feet should be flat on the floor and your thighs should be at right-angles to the floor. If your feet don’t reach the floor comfortably, use a footrest rather than lowering your seat. When you’re seated comfortably with your feet flat, there should be about 5-6 centimetres distance between the edge of your seat and the backs of your knees.   Avoid crossing your legs as this can place a significant strain on your hips.

  3. Keyboard and Mouse should be close to the edge of the desk

    Your keyboard should sit directly in front of your monitor. Both the keyboard and mouse should ideally sit at the edge of the desk, with your elbows tucked in to your side.   If your arm is outstretched too far forward whilst using your mouse, you risk wrist, arm and shoulder injury.  Keep your wrists straight and leaning on the desk.  Palm supports can take the pressure off your wrists.

  4. Check the height & distance of your monitor

    The monitor should sit at eye level and about an arm’s length away and directly in front of you. If you are working across several screens, you may experience neck pain. We have seen this a lot in clinic.   If you do need to work across several screens, keep the main one directly in front of you. The top of the monitor should be at or just below eye level.  If the monitor is positioned too high or low, you risk neck pain.  At the same time, if the monitor is too close to you, it can lead to eye strain.   Laptops can create issues for your neck and shoulders as the screen may sit low.  Where possible, invest in an adjustable laptop stand that allows you to raise the screen to eye level.     

A few more tips for a healthy workspace:

  • A healthy workspace needs good lighting.  Natural daylight is ideal in an office environment because it is the fullest spectrum of light that includes all colours. Natural daylight also provides the clearest visibility.  If natural daylight is not possible, choose whiter light desk lighting.  This encourages more focused work and is best used to illuminate task-based areas. 
  • Take regular breaks from your screen. Our bodies were not designed to sit for too long. A good rule of thumb is to get up every hour for about 5-10 minutes. Stretch and move around.
  • Hydrate – Keep a jug of water on your desk and drink regularly yourself a drink to keep hydrated
  • If you are on the phone a lot, then consider using a headset. Avoid cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder as this will create tension in your neck and shoulder.

Written by Rosa Ghidella, Director, Haberfield Health