Computer Workstation Ergonomic Self Evaluation

The term ergonomic is not a regulated word.  In the easiest definition we want the equipment to work for the individual instead of the person changing his/her body to fit the equipment.

  1.         Always have your back in contact with the chair.  You can have the most expensive chair but if it not in contact with the back it is a waste of money. The two areas of the back that need interaction with the chair are the thoracic & lumbar sectors of the back. It is appropriate to sit upright or slightly reclined, as long as your back is supported and your spine retains its proper shape. If your lumbar support is not adjustable, adding a rolled up towel or small cushion may help. Most chairs are able to either recline or be locked upright, so experiment to find the proper type of support for your back.
  2.        The uppermost portion of the monitor screen should be level with your eyes. If you lean back while working, adjust the monitor lower to accommodate your more typical seated position.
  3.         To reduce glare move light sources or cover windows to prevent reflections from the screen. Ensure default color choices for applications maximize contrast and ease of use. The monitor screen should be at 90 degrees to your line of vision, and not tipped too far upward. Proper monitor positioning is essential to avoid eye strain.
  4.         A good rule is to have the monitor at a distance slightly greater than the length of your arm.  The distance to the monitor should be such that when you are seated comfortably, you can see the screen clearly without needing to squint or lean forward. If you lean forward in your seat, you may experience back or neck pain from this posture. Move the monitor as often as necessary to maintain comfortable viewing distance.
  5.        Your feet should rest flat on the floor (if this is not possible you will need a foot rest).  You never want your feet to dangle in the air as this will lead to a loss of circulation.  Lower your seat until this happens and you feel the pressure ease off from the underside of your thighs. Your monitor and keyboard should be adjusted so you can sit down at this level.
  6.        Instead of placing papers flat on the desk and leaning or twisting your neck to see them invest in a document holder this will help to avoid neck strain for lightweight items, a monitor-mounted holder works well. For frequent, intensive use, an inline holder is best. For intermediate and occasional use, a freestanding holder next to the monitor usually is satisfactory.
  7.       Your wrists should be flat and straight in relation to your forearms (a similar position to playing the piano) when using the keyboard or mouse. Look at your hands as you type - is your middle finger in a straight line following the bones of your forearm (not deviating left or right)? If not, you may need a different keyboard. This is common if you have broad shoulders, long arms, and large hands, any of which can make a standard straight keyboard uncomfortably small. There are a number of alternative keyboards to solve this problem. People with narrower shoulders and a small build should not use a keyboard that is too large for them; this may cause elbow problems. If you rest your palms on the desk while typing, your wrist is bent back to reach the keyboard and you should have a soft palm-support to level out that angle.
  8.      (a) Your arms should hang relaxed and close to your body with no effort put into keeping your shoulders in position or your elbows out. Your elbows should be bent at about a 90 degree angle - perhaps a little more open, but no less. If the angle is too large, your wrists will need to bend back to reach the keyboard and you need your forearms to be level. (b) Look at the reach to your mouse. If it is on the right side, you may have significant external rotation at the elbow and/or stress in the shoulder. To alleviate these problems, you need to either move the mouse to the left side of the keyboard and use your left hand (it takes about two weeks to make the transition completely) or find a way to move the mouse closer to the space bar on the right. This may mean getting a keyboard with a built-in mouse, or without a number pad, or changing to a centered mouse device.
  9.       The monitor and keyboard should be centered in front of you, not off to an angle. There should be a straight line from your nose to your belly button to the center of the space bar to the center of your screen. There should be no twisting in your shoulders or neck. Centering the keyboard properly often pushes the mouse too far away to the right. This means you need to reposition the mouse, not use the keyboard in an incorrect posture.
  10.     Adjust the keyboard tray to a negative tilt, which means tilting down as it goes away from you. At no time should the keyboard be tilted upward toward the back; this increases wrist angles and stresses. If your keyboard has little feet in the back, lower them to remove tilting.
  11.     Take frequent microbreaks i.e. 20 seconds to 2 minutes. It is far better to take regular microbreaks than a few large ones. Rotate your tasks so you are not doing the same motions for too long at a time. Do some stretches at least once an hour, and remember to look away from your screen every 20 minutes, focus on something at least 20 feet away, and hold that distant focus for at least 20 seconds. This can help prevent eye fatigue and premature near-sightedness. It is far better to take many small breaks than a few large ones.