Repetitive postures can create spinal stress, and there are simple ways to improve your workspace to reduce the risk.
How can you tell if your office environment is safe and conducive to your comfort and productivity?
Consider the following questions:
In your workplace, do you:
Sit for long periods of time? Perform repetitive arm or hand movements?
Spend much time on the telephone? Have to turn your head to see your computer monitor?
Take few or no breaks? Sit under dim or flickering lights?
Spend hours time looking down at papers on your desk? Experience headaches or neck pain?
Experience aching, numbness, or tingling in your fingers and hands? Experience neck or back pain?
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, you could be at risk of developing (or already suffering from) repetitive strain injuries related to your office setup. Consider these tips:
The Keyboard: Position it above your lap. Ensure that you can type with your arms relaxed, close to your body with elbows bent at 90 degrees and wrists level.
The Computer Monitor: Position it directly in front of you. (Your eyes should be looking straight ahead, not with your head tilted up and back, and not looking down). Keep your monitor free of dirt and smudges, to reduce glare. Allow the muscles in your eyes to relax by taking a 20 second break every 20 minutes, during which you look at an object that is located at least 20 feet away from you.
The Mouse: Use a light grip to avoid strain. When moving it, use your elbow to guide it instead of your wrist.
The Telephone: Use your hand to support the telephone against your ear, and alternate regularly instead of cradling the phone between the ear and shoulder. Consider using a headset or speaker to limit the strain on your neck and arms.
The Chair: Sit upright, all the way back. You can even roll up a towel and place it against the arch of your back for lumbar spine support. Your chair’s height should be adjusted to a level at which your knees are bent at a 90-100 degree angle, with your feet touching the floor.
Take breaks! Move Your Body! By far the most important thing I can stress is to vary your tasks as much as possible throughout your day. Keep your body from being stuck in any position for too long, and give your brain a boost as well. Consider standing or walking during phone conversation and meetings if possible.
Making a few simple ergonomic changes to your work environment is a good investment for your health, and productivity! Take a few minutes to assess your work station – what can you improve?