Ergonomics : Sitting at a Desk ALL DAY.

Guest Blogger, Laura Czuba, a Process Improvement Specialist studying Ergonomics in home health care gives us a few tips on staying loose at the office:

After a long workday at the office, is your back sometimes sore?  Are your eyes tired?  Are your shoulders, arms, and legs stiff?  If so, some ergonomic tips relevant to computer usage may help you ward off your end of workday agony.

Let’s start at the beginning;  ergonomics, what is it? You may have heard of a product being ergonomically designed and thought, “Well, that looks comfy, so who cares what ergonomic means…”  But an ergonomically designed product is more than comfortable!


Ergonomics is the study of people at work. This includes physical and cognitive interactions between people and the systems they use while at work.  If the system isn’t designed to fit your body, as the cartoon to the top suggests, you will be less effective, less efficient, and less productive; as well as sore.

That said, there are some key components to improving comfort within your work environment. Research in office settings has led to the following conclusions/suggestions:

There is no optimal seated posture;  the best is a varied one;  however, there are some suggestions to minimize discomfort (Chaffin, et al. 2006).

Both feet should be resting on the floor, not hanging off the chair.
  • If you’re too short to touch the ground or you’re not wearing tall enough heels to make up for your height discrepancy, find some kind of foot rest to use.
  • Why? The weight of your legs is being supported by the floor, rather than your spine.
Use arm rests .
  • Arm rests should allow you to have your elbows at about a 90 degree angle, with your shoulders relaxed.
  • Why? The arm rest is carrying your arm weight, again, rather than your spine.
Sit back and relax; let your backrest do the work.
  • Keep your backrest at about 115 to 125 degrees.
  • Why? If you recline your backrest about 20 degrees your spine will be closest to the position it is in when you’re standing, which decreases the load on your back.
Seat pan (that’s where your bottom is!)
  • Keep it at about a 5 to 10 degree incline.
  • Why? This also helps decrease the pressure on your spine by assisting in approximating the position your spine is in when standing.
The Computer monitor position should not cause you to continuously look up (Chaffin, et al. 2006).
  • The top edge of the monitor should at about eye level to enable approximately a 45 degree angle for your sight range.
  • Why? This position will reduce eye fatigue and stiffness in your neck.
Take a micro-break (NIOSH, 2009) (See below Computer & Desk Stretches ! )
  • Why? Isn’t it obvious…it’s recovery time for your muscles, joints, and ligaments, allowing you to be on top of your game.

As a word of caution, currently there is no steadfast way to increase your comfort at the office; test out what is mentioned above and see what works for you. Just remember, no one position is optimum for an extended period, so from time to time, shake it up a bit.

Some suggested stretches:

Chaffin, D., Andersson, Gunnar, Martin, Bernard. (2006). Occupational Biomechanics. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

NIOSH. (2009, Februay 13). STRATEGIC REST BREAKS REDUCE VDT DISCOMFORTS WITHOUT IMPAIRING PRODUCTIVITY, NIOSH STUDY FINDS. Retrieved July 20, 2010, from National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health:


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