The Foundations of Ergonomics

Finding the right seat for your employees could help avoid claims

Do you ever get a sore neck just sitting at your desk during the work day? Does your wrist ever become sore while typing? If this is you, there is a lot you can do to address the causes of some of your pain with the help of ergonomics. Many of the desks used today were designed decades ago and don’t take into account modern ergonomic knowledge. The desk of someone very tall might not be ideal for someone very short, and vice versa. While adjustable seats remove some of that difficulty, that does not address potential complications to your shoulders, neck, or back. Even seating that is highly adjustable cannot conform to a diversity of body types.

OSHA describes this as “the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job.” Ergonomics as it pertains to your desk has come a long way in the last 30 years. With a few simple tools, almost any desk can be made to fit every employee.

There are several different ways you can customize a workstation. It starts with finding the right seat. Many office chairs can mitigate some of the problems that can come from sitting. Ideally, a chair will keep the back straight, the legs at a 90-degree angle, the arms at a relaxed position, and the user’s head twenty inches from a computer screen.

If you want to retrofit an existing desk, you can purchase adjustable keyboard trays, wall mounts for monitors, and chairs that can modify seat height, pan angle, and armrest height while providing back support. Pay particular attention to body angles. Your arms and legs should be at a 90-degree angle with your hands on the keyboard with your feet flat on the floor. Be aware that this type of configuration may cause you to rest your arms on your armrest while typing. This should be avoided as it can cause stiffness and pain in your shoulders and neck over time. Adjust your armrests so that they are below your keyboard, and only rest your arms when you are not actively working.

The next step is adjusting your monitors. Your eyes should line up about 3 inches below the top of the monitors, which should be tilted back between 10-20 degrees, and you should be 20 to 28 inches away from the screen.

One new trend is a sit/stand desk, which can help increase the ergonomics of your desk. If you’re not familiar with these, they essentially act as platforms for your monitors, and can be lifted to accommodate standing while working. You should always stand up and walk around every 25 minutes to an hour to help get your blood flowing. Sit/stand desks may help with stretching muscles and possibly aid in circulation. Some studies show that adjustable work stations reduce costs and show a return on investment in as little as 3 years under certain conditions. Traditional desks can be outfitted for a few hundred dollars.

For example, document holders can also greatly reduce neck strain and headaches. A document holder can be placed on the desk or you can purchase clips that attach to your monitor to hold your documents. This will eliminate glancing back and forth from a page to your monitor. That repetitive motion places tension on your neck. Additionally, your eyes may have a hard time alternating focus between two different bodies of text. The bright screen and a piece of paper require your eyes to focus in on two completely different undertones and color types, which can also cause headaches for many people and are the types of issues you want to avoid.

If you would like to have an ergonomic evaluation completed for your workstation or that of your staff, please reach out to Adam Johnsen at


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