5 Tips to Match Your Workstation to Your Body - Ergonomics 101
The workplace has been changed due to the pandemic including workstation design, modifications to everyday tasks, and for certain roles more opportunities to perform work outside of the dealership such as working from home.
It is a common fallacy to believe that if a workstation is fitted with equipment that is labeled ergonomic...think keyboards and chairs... that there is no risk of musculoskeletal (MSI) or repetitive strain (RSI) injury. People can easily fall into a false sense of security.
Another common mistake is positioning the body to fit the workstation rather than the other way around, especially when prolonged periods of time are spent working in one fixed location with one design or set up of equipment.
What is an MSI? It is an injury or aggravation of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other related soft tissues inside our body's that can cause sprains, strains, chronic pain, and other effects such as nerve or blood vessel damage.
Here are five simple tips to design your workstation around your physical needs, rather than trying to fit yourself around your workstation.
1. Set up your line of sight near the top of your screen.
A common cause of neck and shoulder injury is from facing downwards rather than straight ahead. Use a stand to raise your computer monitor so your line of sight is just below the top edge of your monitor.
As a guide, the URL bar at the top of your browser is where your natural line of sight should be when you are sitting or standing at your desk working on your computer.
Additionally - ensure your face is at least 16 inches away from your screen while working.
2. Give the eyes a rest
There is a muscle in your eyes called the ciliary muscle, it controls the shape of our lens. When we are focused on our screens this muscle contracts to help us focus on what is near to us. Keeping this contraction prolonged for too long can cause eye strain developing into blurry vision and dry eyes.
For every 20 minutes of looking at a screen, look away at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to relax your ciliary muscle.
3. Your keyboard and mouse should be no higher than your elbows.
When you have your hands in front to type or use your computer mouse it is important to keep your forearms at a 90° angle or larger from your bicep. This prevents prolonged contraction of your bicep muscle as well as allows your wrists to remain straight or slightly lower than your forearm.
If your hands or arms need to reach upward in any shape or form to type or click then you are placing unnecessary strain on your hands, wrists arms, and shoulders.
4. Keep your knees slightly lower than your hips when in a seated position.
When seated at your chair appropriately to allow for the correct eye and arm height, notice now where your knees are in relation to your hips. If your feet are unable to fully say flat on the floor with your knees slightly lower than your hips then place a stool underneath to raise them.
If your knees are too high, which can cause prolonged flexion of the hips, you may need to adjust your chair or the height of your keyboard and monitor so you can raise your chair appropriately.
Keep your knees and feet square facing forward to prevent twisting unnecessarily.
5. Pretend you are behind the wheel.
A common misconception is we need to have a rigid spine that is board straight in our chair. The best position is actually a neutral position that naturally maintains the "s" curve of our spine.
Picture seeing yourself from the side as you sit in your chair. Your spine should appear to look like the letter S. Your hips are at the back of your chair, your lumbar slightly curved in and supported, your shoulders back with a slight lean, and your head resting on some type of support.
We are very good at sitting this way in our car, we tend to relax into the seat in a very neutral and natural position. Recreate this in your office chair using cushions and towels if necessary. And don't forget to stand up and move around a little at least once an hour while at your desk.
Remember there may be exceptions to these rules as not all bodies are built the same, we have a variety of ranges of motions, sizes, and shapes. Trust your body, listen to your aches and pains, and set up your workstation so you can see clearly, remain comfortable, and allow for a range of movement that is not painful or uncomfortable.