When your desk, chair and computer equipment are not set up correctly, there’s potential for a musculoskeletal disorder, says Emma Nicolson, occupational health and safety specialist with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). Work-related injuries include carpal-tunnel syndrome (a painful wrist injury), tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons), thoracic outlet syndrome (the compression of nerves and blood vessels between the neck and shoulders) and tension neck syndrome (neck pain and stiffness).
Those injuries can result in significant costs to your business through reduced productivity, absenteeism and compensation.
As a manager, it is your responsibility to ensure all your team members have an ergonomic workstation, to decrease the potential for injury. Here are five tips for setting up an ergonomic work environment for yourself and for your team:
1. Sit in a balanced position
There are many so-called “ergonomic” chairs available, but it’s a mistake to purchase one simply based on the name. According to the CCOHS, a chair becomes ergonomic only when it is suited to an employee’s body, workstation and tasks performed.
Your best bet is to find a chair with adjustable height, tilt and arm rests. Arm rests should be adjustable enough to allow you sit near your work desk and have a free range of motion.
Also, make sure the seat doesn’t put any pressure on the back of your knees or thighs, Nicolson says. For stability, a five-point chair base is recommended.
Although an ergonomic set-up encourages a balanced seating position, it’s still important to use proper sitting posture to reap any benefits.
2. Adjust the distance and angle of your monitor
When it comes to monitors, according to Nicolson, one size — and one angle — does not fit all. The viewing angle and viewing distance are both important factors to consider in order to avoiding discomfort, or worse, musculoskeletal injuries.
The CCOHS reports that a normal line of sight is a straightforward position and a downward cast. When using a monitor of 17 inches or larger, ensure that the top of your monitor sits no higher than your eye level.
For viewing distance, the CCOHS says, a range of 40 cm to 70 cm is typically the most comfortable. If you’re unable to read text clearly, it’s better to increase font size than move too close to the monitor.
3. Size up your mouse
There are many variations on the computer mouse, Nicolson says, and it’s important to choose a device tailored to your specific task and comfort.
Alternative mouse options include a joystick, so you can move your whole arm when moving your cursor. A trackball uses a ball set in a holder, so you can navigate your curser while keeping your arm and hand in one position.
Battery-powered, cordless mice are often preferable because they allow for greater freedom of movement. Be wary of wrist rests, however. The CCOHS says the research on their benefits are inconclusive.
This is the first part in a two-part series on ergonomic workstations. Next Friday: Alternative office chairs.