computer workstation ergonomics

Computer Workstation Ergonomics

Computer Workstation Ergonomics


Article by Marc Liron - Microsoft MVP (2004-2010)


As we spend increasing amounts of time at our computer workstation, we need to be aware of how the design and arrangement of our equipment can impact our comfort, health, and productivity..






The Essentials

# Work Area

# Desk/Workstation

# Chair

# Monitor

# Keyboard

# Mouse, Trackball, or Other Pointing Device

# Lighting

# Work Habits

# Laptop Computer

Computer Workstation Ergonomics - The WORK AREA

The work area should be large enough to accommodate you, allow the full range of motions involved in performing required tasks, and provide room for the equipment and materials that make up the workstation.

Use a headset for lengthy or frequent telephone work. Place the items you use most frequently directly in front of you. Avoid overcrowding computer work areas.


Computer Workstation Ergonomics - DESK/WORKSTATION

Standard furniture cannot accommodate everyone’s needs. A taller person may need a one-time adjustment to have his or her work surface raised somewhat; a shorter person may need a footrest or other accessories. Adjustable furniture may be needed in situations where people share or use the same workstation.

The desktop should be organized so that frequently used objects are close to the user to avoid excessive extended reaching.
The work surface should have a matte finish to minimize glare or reflections.

The area underneath the desk should always be clean/uncluttered to accommodate the user’s legs and allow for stretching.

If a fixed-height desk is used, add a keyboard tray that adjusts vertically to provide added adjustability.

A footrest should be used if, after adjusting the height of the chair, feet do not rest flat on the floor.

Use a headset or speaker phone to avoid neck and shoulder discomfort if you use a phone frequently throughout the day.

Place the phone on the side of your non-dominant hand (i.e., left side if right-handed, right side if left-handed)
Position your desk lamp (if you use one) so that it illuminates source documents without causing either glare on the computer screen or direct illumination to your eyes.

A document holder should be used if documents are referred to during keying.

The document holder should:

Be stable and adjustable (height, position, distance, and angle of view).

Support your document on either side of the monitor. Be at the same distance from your eyes as the display screen to avoid frequent changes of focus and you should be able you to look from one to the other without moving your neck or back.


Computer Workstation Ergonomics - CHAIR ADJUSTMENTS

Contrary to popular belief, sitting, which most people believe is relaxing, is hard on the back. Sitting for long periods of time can cause increased pressure on the intervertebral discs — the spongy discs between the vertebra.

Sitting is also hard on the feet and legs. Gravity tends to pool blood in the legs and feet and create a sluggish return to the heart.

The following recommendations can help increase comfort for computer users:

"Dynamic sitting", don’t stay in one static position for extended periods of time.

When performing daily tasks, alternate between sitting and standing or take small walking breaks throughout the day.

The chair back should have a lumbar support Adjust height of backrest to support the natural inward curve of the lower back.

It may be useful to use a rolled towel, lumbar roll or cushion to support the low back.

The angle of the back rest is subjective but the trunk and upper legs should form an angle between 90 to 115 degrees.

Adjust height of chair so feet rest flat on floor.

Sit upright in the chair with the low back against the backrest and the shoulders touching the backrest.

Thighs should be parallel to the floor and knees at about the same level as the hips.

Back of knees should not come in direct contact with the edge of the seat pan. There should be 2-4 inches between the edge of the seat and the back of the knee.

Arm rests should be removable and the distance between the arm rests should be adjustable.

Adjust height and/or width of armrests so they allow the user to rest arms at their sides and relax/drop their shoulders while keyboarding.

Don’t use armrests to slouch. Also, chair arms should not noticeably elevate your shoulders or force you to move your arms away from your body to use them.

Elbows and lower arms should rest lightly on armrests so as not to cause circulatory or nerve problems.

Use a footrest when attempts to adjust your chair and the rest of the workstation fail to keep your feet on the ground.

Ensure that you have some space (2-3") between the top of your thighs and the underside of your workstation.

Have enough space under your work surface so that you can pull your self all the way up to the edge of the desk with room for your legs and knees to fit comfortably.


Computer Workstation Ergonomics - The MONITOR

Once the chair and work surface height are properly adjusted, the computer monitor should be placed so the top of the screen is at or just below eye level when seated in an upright position. The following suggestions can help prevent the development of eye strain, neck pain and shoulder fatigue while using your computer workstation:

Make sure the surface of the viewing screen is clean.

Adjust brightness and contrast to optimum comfort.

Position the monitor directly in front of the user to avoid excessive twisting of the neck.

User must position the monitor at a comfortable viewing distance, approximately 18-30 inches from the user.

Position monitors at right angles from windows to reduce glare. Close window blinds as needed to reduce glare from sunlight.

Position monitors away from direct lighting which creates excessive glare or use a glare filter over the monitor to reduce glare.

Adjust the monitor tilt so that ceiling lights do not reflect on your screen.

If a document holder is used, it should be placed at approximately the same height as the monitor and at the same distance from the eyes to prevent frequent eye shifts between the monitor screen and reference materials.

Get regular eye check-ups.

Adjust as needed for larger screens. You may need to sit farther away and increase the font size to take full advantage of the larger screen.

Bifocal and trifocal wearers have to pay particular attention to the placement of their monitor. Wearers of bifocals and trifocals often unknowingly tilt their heads backwards so they can read the screen through the lower portion of their glasses. This can sometimes lead to neck, shoulder, and back discomfort. Potential solutions include either lowering the computer monitor or purchasing glasses designed specifically for working at the computer.


Computer Workstation Ergonomics - The KEYBOARD

Many ergonomic problems associated with computer workstations occur in the shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand. Continuous work on the computer may expose soft tissues in these areas to repetition, awkward postures, and forceful exertions, especially if the workstation is not set up properly.

The following adjustments should be made to your workstation to help prevent the development of an ergonomic problem in the upper extremities:

First adjust your chair as mentioned above, then with your arms resting comfortably at your side, raise your forearms to form a 90 degree angle with your upper arms.

Adjust keyboard height so shoulders can relax and allow arms to rest at sides. An articulating keyboard tray is often necessary to accommodate proper height and distance.

Position the keyboard directly in front and be close to the user to avoid excessive extended reaching.

Forearms parallel to the floor (approximately 90 degree angle at elbow).

Mouse should be placed adjacent to keyboard and at the same height as the keyboard. Avoid extended and elevated reaching for keyboard and mouse. The back of the wrist should be kept flat (in a neutral position). Do not rest the hand on the mouse when your are not using it. Rest hands in your lap when not entering data.

A padded wrist rest will help to keep your wrist in a straight and neutral position while typing and keep your arms off the sharp edges of the work surface.

Do not rest your wrists or hands on a palm or wrist rest when you are keying. These rests are designed to provide support only during breaks from keying.

The slope of the keyboard may need to be adjusted so that it is flat in order that your wrists are straight, and not bent back while you are typing.

Press the keys gently; do not bang them or hold them down for long periods. Keep your shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers relaxed.

If your work surface is too high and not adjustable, adjust your chair to bring your arms to the proper position. If you raise your chair make sure your feet are properly supported. 



Kind Regards

Marc Liron

Marc Liron