Practice Proper Ergonomics in the Workplace

John Scott
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As any office worker knows, workplace ergonomics can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being. Poor posture and body positioning can lead to cramps and aches that sabotage other activities. With a few simple adjustments, you can finish each day without pain.

For many modern professionals, the computer is the most significant contributor to poor workplace ergonomics. If you spend hours each day craning your head to look down at a laptop or monitor, you'll walk away with a stiff neck and sore shoulders. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, your monitor should be positioned so that the center of the screen is about 15 to 20 degrees below eye level. This allows your head to rest in a neutral position while you work, promoting a healthy posture. The monitor should be approximately 20 to 40 inches away to reduce eye strain.

Neck and back pain can also occur when your monitor is placed too far to one side; the constant turn of your head causes stiffness and muscle soreness. To improve your workplace ergonomics, place your monitor directly in front of your body. If that isn't possible, ensure that it is not placed more than 35 degrees to either side.

If you spend a considerable amount of time on your phone or tablet, it can be more difficult to use proper posture. When you're on the phone, stand up and walk around to keep your body loose. Switch arms and ears to create balance and give your muscles a break. Minimize the time you spend looking down at a phone or tablet to cut out neck cramps and align your spine. When you type on a mobile phone, alternate between your thumbs and fingers to avoid overuse injuries. Keep your wrists as straight as possible and use an easy-grip case to reduce the necessary grip pressure.

Your office chair also contributes to workplace ergonomics. Adjust your chair so that your back and thighs are at a 90-degree angle; leaning too far back or forward places an uneven load on your muscles and spine. Ground your healthy posture by adjusting the chair height so that your calves and thighs are at a 90-degree angle. If you have shorter legs, you may need to add a footrest to your office setup. Avoid placing your knees higher than your hips. Ensure that your wrists rest easily on your desk in a straight position, and use a gel pad to reduce strain.

Even with the best possible workplace ergonomics, your body requires regular breaks; sitting in any position for an extended period of time can lead to stiffness and cramps. To help alleviate or prevent pain, get up and move around at least once an hour. Even a trip to the printer or bathroom will loosen your muscles and get your blood flowing.

A few small shifts in your workspace setup can have a significant impact on workplace ergonomics. Though the changes take a while to set in, you should begin to feel less pain within a week.


(Photo courtesy of Graur Razvan Ionut at


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