Optimizing the Office Environment: The Basics of an Ergonomic Workstation

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Fun and innovative office designs seem to be popping up every day. However, in the midsts of this hype around trendy workspaces, it’s important to not ignore the basics of an ergonomic workstation.

A proper workstation affects employee productivity as well as their comfort and safety. With all the technology and devices available, it can be hard to keep track of the latest recommendations for an ergonomic workstation.

While the specific set up depends on your tools and desk space, the goal of an optimal ergonomic workstation is that it should encourage you to sit in a comfortable position while avoiding injury or strain.

What is a comfortable and healthy sitting position?

  • Feet flat on the ground
  • Knees bent at approximately the same height as your hips
  • Wrist, forearms, and elbows flat and parallel to the ground
  • Elbows should be close to your body and bent at a 90º – 120º angle from your upper arm
  • Shoulders relaxed
  • Head in a forward-facing neutral position

What does this mean for your workstation set up?

Your DESK should have enough open space to appropriately place equipment. It should also allow for easy access to your most commonly used desk items and devices to avoid awkward strain from constant reaching. Additionally, watch out for  “contact stress” that comes from regularly resting wrists and arms on the edges of your desk or keyboard. To avoid this, consider getting wrist/palm rests or adding padding to your desk edges.

Your MONITOR should be situated in a way that doesn’t require straining your neck or eyes. This means there should be at least 20 inches between you and the monitor screen, and you shouldn’t need to turn your head more than 35º to either side. The center of the screen should be 15º – 20º below horizontal eye level and angled in a way that doesn’t attract glare.

Your KEYBOARD should be at approximately the same height as your elbows. The placement of the keyboard should allow your elbows to be close to your body and your wrists to be in a neutral position (neither bent up nor bent down).

Your CHAIR should have lumbar support, meaning that it supports the natural “S” curvature of your spine. It should also be set at a height that allows your feet to be placed flat on the floor and your forearms to be at a 90º angle from your upper arms. Ideally your chair should be adjustable, so that you can vary your sitting position throughout the day.

For more in-depth guidelines, OSHA provides a checklist to evaluate your current workstation and future purchases.

Regardless of how ergonomic a workstation is, it is still important that employees have the opportunity to stand up, walk around, and stretch whenever possible.

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