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The Importance of Ergonomics in the Office (and for your Health)

The Importance of Ergonomics in the Office (and for your Health)

Michelle Wilson
If you work in an office using computers all day, it’s crucial for you have a work setup designed to support your body properly. When your office isn’t built to keep you comfortable, you could be at risk for undesired effects like repetitive strain injuries and you can actually increase your overall risk of mortality [1] [2].
Luckily, with the right knowledge and ergonomic devices, you can easily create a workspace where you don’t have to choose between your health and your productivity. Below, we’ll dive into the importance of ergonomics in your office space.

What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the study of customizing a workplace to a user’s requirements or, as the U.S. Department of Labor succinctly defines it, “fitting a job to a person” [3]. Using ergonomics helps increase worker efficiency and productivity but ultimately keeps a worker’s comfort a top priority.
If you’ve ever experienced carpal tunnel syndrome or gone home after eight hours in front of a computer with an aching back because of an uncomfortable desk chair, you’re already familiar with the consequences of bad ergonomics. So, how do you solve this conundrum to keep yourself focused and relaxed as you work?
There are many elements involved in order to set up a healthy workspace. We’ve broken it down so you can get every part of your office dialed in and comfortable.

What aspects of your workspace can you make ergonomic?

If you spend a lot of time sitting at your desk, it can wreak havoc on your body - even if the effects aren’t immediately noticeable. Over time, a poor setup can mean pinched nerves, sore wrists, and other discomforts.
Here are some ergonomic tips to keep in mind as you build up your workstation [4].

1. Desk

Your desk is the foundation for all of your work and where all of your work-essential devices will live. There are several key factors at play when you’re looking to invest in a desk that works for your specific industry and your body. First and foremost, it’s important to pay attention to its height.
Not sure what desk height to use? You can use tools like Ergotron’s workspace planner to set up an ergonomic workspace based on your biometrics [5]. In addition, you can choose between a traditional desk and a standing desk. The planner will compute your measurements and tell you, in inches, your ideal seat height, keyboard height, monitor height, and monitor height.
Now, you might be wondering what’s better, a traditional desk or a standing desk? The answer: it depends.
Standing desks versus traditional desks
Many health experts have claimed that sitting is the new smoking [6]. And there is evidence that there’s a reason to ring the alarm bells: a sedentary lifestyle increases your risks for various health issues such as obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and ultimately can shorten your life [7]. The most concerning part? No amount of exercise can make up for the amount of time you spend sitting; you simply can’t undo sitting [8].
With all of this in mind, it’s no surprise that standing desks have been selling in the millions. While standing desks do help mitigate the effects of a sedentary 9 to 5, it’s important to note that they come with their own drawbacks.
For example, if you transition from sitting your entire workday to standing for that same duration, you’re likely to experience back, leg, or foot pain [9]. In addition, tasks that require fine motor skills are better performed while sitting down [10]. Why? It boils down to how your brain works.
While you might claim you’re great at multi-tasking, in reality, your brain likes to do one thing at a time. So, standing while trying to do another intensive task might be asking too much of your brain, resulting in a decline in efficiency or productivity.
In addition, standing too long can be arduous on your body. If you spend your entire day standing this can compress your spine, increase your risk for varicose veins and elevate the chance of developing cardiovascular problems because your heart has to work against gravity to pump blood throughout your body [11].
If you do decide to transition to a standing desk, ideally you’ll get a sit-stand adapter so you can switch up your work setup throughout your day. Follow these tips so you can get the most out of your standing desk without risking injury:
1. Transition slowly: Don’t immediately stand for eight hours a day. Work up to thirty-minute to sixty-minute intervals. The ideal sit-stand ratio is between 1:1 and 1:3 depending on certain variables like your general health, your work industry, and your age [12].
2. Get a foam mat: A memory foam mat will help reduce foot and leg fatigue. It’ll make the transition to standing much more comfortable.
3. Consider a balance board: If you’re feeling ambitious, you can invest in a balance board to make your standing desk a little more dynamic. Those micro movements to keep your balance might help keep you a little more focused throughout your workday.
4. Practice good posture: Make sure you’re standing up straight while you’re working at your standing desk to avoid straining your neck, shoulder, or back muscles.
5. Don’t be static: Just as you shouldn’t spend your entire day sitting perfectly still at your desk, the same rule applies to a standing desk. If you stand still, that’s not doing much good for your body because your body wasn’t designed to mimic ancient Greek statues. So, embrace slight movements that don’t take you out of your work groove but add a little physicality to your day.

2. Chair

Your workplace throne shouldn’t just be comfortable, it should also be supported with features that help keep your back healthy and properly positioned.
  • Armrests: It’s a good idea to have a place for your arms to rest when you’re not busy typing. Your armrests should be at a level where your shoulders stay relaxed and your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
  • Adjustable seat height: It’s likely the case that you can’t adjust your desk height but what you can change (with most chairs) is your seat height. For the best possible positioning, your thighs should be parallel to the floor when your feet are flat on the floor.
  • Supportive cushion: Even if you plan to stand for a good portion of your day, you are still going to want to choose a chair that has a comfortable cushion when you need to take a break. As you search for your perfect office chair, consider finding a model with breathable fabric and memory foam. These two materials combined may help you get through your workday feeling a little less fatigued.
  • Adjustable backrest height: Ideally, you’ll be able to adjust the chair’s backrest up or down along with its angle. In most cases, it’s best to have the angle farther forward so you’ll be less likely to slouch or otherwise slump over.
  • Lumbar support: The small of your back has a slight curve in it. In terms of ergonomics, that means the back of your chair shouldn’t be straight. Instead, your chair should be slightly bowed at the bottom. If you feel like you’re slumping over, you may want to add a lumbar support pillow to your chair.
  • Swivel and roll functions: Instead of forcing your body to strain and over-reach for items, choose a chair that can roll and swivel. These functions make moving around much more natural.

3. Keyboard

Your mouse and keyboard should be near each other when you set up your desk. It’s important that you’re not straining or uncomfortable when reaching for either of these devices. The keyboard should be centered with your body so the “B” key lines up with your belly button.
Best HP ergonomic keyboard
To enhance the comfort of your personal work setup, you might find that the HP Microsoft Natural Ergonomic keyboard 4000 serves your need for better ergonomics in the workplace. It’s the number one best-selling natural keyboard for a reason. Users love it because of its advanced, thoughtful features that keep your hands and wrists in the best possible position as you work.
Look for a keyboard with a natural arc and a curved key bed so that that the keys are nearer to your fingers. This reduces the reach necessary for typing. A palm lift on your keyboard gives you a reverse slope and cushioned wrist rest is great for healthier body alignment.

Mouse and mousepad

Together, your mouse and mousepad should support a neutral wrist and arm position that doesn’t strain your tendons or muscles. They should also allow you to move naturally without feeling cramped or tense.
Best HP ergonomic mouse
Whether you’re a southpaw or right-handed user, the HP wireless mouse 200 will keep everybody happy. It’s designed to be durable and reliable, even when you use it every day. In addition, it’s contoured to naturally form to the shape of your hand - left or right.
Because there are no wires, you never have to worry about cords getting tangled, you can simply rely on the 2.4 GHz wireless connection.
Best HP ergonomic mousepad
When you’re shopping for mousepads, one feature to keep in mind is the size. You’ll want an adequately-sized mousepad so you’re not restricted to awkward movements while you work. We suggest the HP OMEN mousepad 100. Designed for precision, this mousepad is the perfect complement to any office setup and it’s large enough to allow for healthy freedom of movement.

4. Monitor

The position of your monitor is another element you’ll want to consider as you set up your desk space. For the best ergonomic positioning, the top of your monitor should be slightly below eye level. Not only does this help mitigate neck strain, but it also helps avoid glare going directly into your eyes.
Consider a dual monitor set up for a better workflow, but make sure you position both monitors for easy and comfortable viewing.

Other ergonomic tips to keep in mind

It doesn’t matter how perfectly ergonomic your desk and office is if you don’t pay attention to your own body positioning as you work. You’ll want to focus on your posture and take adequate breaks. Keeping these tips in mind allows you to take a holistic approach to your health in the office.

5. Posture

  • Slouching: Avoid letting yourself get too relaxed in your chair. This can be an issue if your seat is too far reclined. You’ll want to make sure you’re sitting up straight with your shoulders in a relaxed (but not slouched) position.
  • Elbows in: As you type on your computer, keep your elbows tucked in and your wrists straight and neutral.

6. Breaks

Sitting for a long time has serious negative health consequences as we’ve already mentioned. There’s simply no way around it.
Ideally, you should take at least a five-minute break away from your screen every half hour to hour. In addition, you can stick to the 20 - 20 - 20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look away from your screen and look at something at least twenty feet away from you.
It’s incredibly easy to get lost in your work once you’re in the zone but it’s important to keep tabs on how long you’ve been sitting still, staring at your work if you want to protect your long-term health.

Ergonomics: the right setup can keep you healthy and comfortable

Using this guide and picking the right products to complement your work setup will help protect your body from the negative effects of poor office ergonomics. Remember to pay attention to the needs of your own body and transition slowly if you decide to go with an alternative to a traditional desk like a standing desk.
[2] American Posture Institute; Are You Sitting Yourself to Death?
[3] U.S. Department of Labor; Ergonomics
[5] Ergotron; Workspace Planner
[7] American Cancer Society; Standing Desks: Are they worth it?
[9] Harvard Health Publishing; The truth behind standing desks
About the Author: Michelle Wilson is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Michelle is a content creation specialist writing for a variety of industries, including tech trends and media news.

Disclosure: Our site may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.

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