sit and type this story, my elbows are hanging by my side. That's not good.
According to Shona Anderson, a certified
Canadian professional ergonomist and owner of Calgary-based Anderson Ergonomics
Consulting Inc., hanging elbows cause more muscle fatigue. I should have my arms
resting on my armrests, but the rests are too wide.
No wonder I have sore shoulders at the end of
An adjustable laptop support
helps keep the computer monitor parallel to eye height.
Phil Carpenter, CanWest News
If you're like me, you need to do some
rearranging to achieve a healthy workspace. Believe it or not, desk jobs can be
exhausting, even though you're sitting on your fanny all day.
Tiny, repetitive movements really add up over
the course of a day, week and year, sometimes with debilitating results.
Carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and back
problems are some of the injuries that can arise.
"If you're not set up properly, it causes
a lot of muscle tension in various parts of the body," says Anderson.
Considering we spend a significant amount of
time at our desks, it's crucial to have a good setup. "People get pain if
they're not set up properly," she says, noting the pain usually starts in
the shoulders and upper back.
To help you get the ideal workspace, here are
Anderson's ergonomic tips, labelled one to eight. Start with No. 1 -the chair - and work your way out from there.
"The chair is really critical in the
workstation," she says. "It's the most important thing."
TIPS FOR A HEALTHY WORKSTATION
1. Plant your feet on the floor, with your
knees and hips bent about 90 degrees. You should feel your weight through your
sitting bone, not through your thighs.
Adjust the outward curve in the chair's back to
fit the small of your back. Your lower back should curve around it and your
shoulder blades should come back and touch the chair.
Anderson says people often don't touch their
shoulder blades to the back of the chair, but it's important. "That helps
to ease muscle contractions in the upper back and neck."
2. Make sure you have a space between the back
of your knee and the front edge of the seat. You should be able to fit three to
four fingers between them. Some chairs will allow you to adjust the seat depth.
"If there isn't that space, then people
tend to sit forward on their chair. They perch." If you have strong core
muscles and can maintain good posture while perching, it might not be a problem.
But most people can hold themselves straight for only 10 minutes. When you
perch, she adds, you end up in a slouching position and that puts pressure on
the discs and the muscles in your back.
4. With your elbows bent about 90 degrees and
resting close to your hips, set up your armrests to support at that height no
higher. "You don't want to have to use your shoulder to raise your arm to
reach the rest," Anderson says. "Most armrests are too high, and
people tend to have these really tight shoulders." Let the armrests support
your arms so you don't have to.
5. Now roll into your workstation with your
elbows bent and your wrists straight. The keyboard should fall right underneath
your fingers. Most often, office desks are too high. If that's the case, you can
either lower the keyboard onto a tray or raise your chair.
"But if you raise your chair, you need to
mimic the floor with some good support under your feet."
A foot rest will do the trick.
6. The top of your monitor screen should be
parallel to your eye height. Bifocal-wearing workers are the exception; because
they tend to look through the bottom of their lenses, their monitors should be
Your monitor should be far enough away that
with your arm extended, your fingers just touch the screen. "If you can
push it back and still see it comfortably, that's better for your eyes,"
she says. The closer the monitor is to your eyes, the more strain they're under.
7. Keep your phone on the opposite side from
your dominant hand. As a right-handed person, you want it on the left side so
you can pick up with your left, leaving your dominant hand free to type or
write. You'll avoid the crossing-over motion this way, a repetitive movement
that can cause muscle strain.
8. Place your document holder between your
keyboard and your monitor. You might need to replace your vertical holder, as
there are shorter, horizontal holders available that are designed to fit the
space. It will save your neck a lot of work.
"The eyes are capable of looking down and
up, but they can't look sideways, so you have to turn your head," says
Palm rests are optional. Anderson says they can
be good in front of a keyboard, as long as you put the fleshy part of your palm
on the rest and not the entire wrist.
"Without (a palm rest), people often drop
their wrists down to the desk surface," causing the wrists to bend
backwards. She doesn't recommend using a palm rest in front of a mouse because
most people don't have long enough forearms to extend over an armrest, the palm
rest and the mouse.
Take a Walk
Get out of your chair at least once an hour.
"It allows the muscles to stretch, allows blood flow to get to the muscles
so they can re-energize themselves and it changes your posture," she says.
"If you're creeping in and slouching, stand up and sit back down again.
You're likely to lean back in your chair and sit properly. You'll break the bad
Lighting should be as natural as possible.
"You have to avoid the glare as much as possible," says Anderson. She
says people will sometimes take out a row of bulbs from overhead lights to
reduce the glare. The ideal is to use a task light and shine it away from you so
that it becomes indirect light.
bend your neck to cradle your phone receiver between your head and shoulder.
Instead, buy and use a headset. You'll avoid the neck strain, and it will free
up your hands to type or write.