Shaping the office environment

The creation of a workstation involves the selection of furnishings and their practical arrangement. 

Those working from home have the opportunity to shape their own working environment, but for most of us the workplace environment is created by our employer. This doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t in some way reflect our individual requirements.

The workplace environment is shaped by ergonomics, a science that studies the quality and influence of the workplace environment on human health and wellbeing.

Work desk

If you spend most of the working day in an office, your basic equipment will include a desk and chair. Most often the desk is rectangular with a depth of around 80 cm.

This is suitable primarily for our eyes as the distance from the computer screen should be roughly an arm’s length, or about 60 cm. There is less agreement among ergonomics experts concerning the correct height for the computer screen. What is agreed, however, is that the first line of text on the screen should be roughly in line with or just below eye level. The more the screen is above eye level, the greater the risk of straining the neck and shoulders.

In addition to fixed workstations we also come across height adjustable sit-sit workstations, which users can adjust to their own height and posture. It is now common for sit-stand workstations to be specified. As the name suggests, their height can be adjusted so that you can work at the desk sitting down or standing up.

Office chair

The office chair is obviously an integral part of the ergonomic workstation. The chair should correctly support the body regardless of the user’s height and weight. The basis for this is a synchronous mechanism that adjusts the chair to the user’s requirements.

The seat height should be adjusted so the legs make a right angle at the knee. If you sit to the back of the seat so that the small of your back is supported by the backrest, the back of your knees should not touch the seat, or just gently. 

Some chairs allow adjustment of seat depth and angle. Correct seating posture is completed with adjustment of the armrests so that your forearm and upper arm make a right angle at the elbow.

Healthy working

To prevent various health problems, such as neck ache, back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, it is not just the chair that is important, but also suitable positioning of items and documents on the worksurface. It is therefore good if one part of it is reserved for items that remain stationary and another part for movable items. Objects that are used frequently should be closer at hand to the user than those used less frequently. 

When placing an object on the desk it generally applies that the body follows the eyes. It is therefore good to have the computer screen, keyboard and documents in a line in front of you. In the ideal case the keyboard should not be on the worksurface, as it normally is, but on a pull out keyboard tray ten to fi fteen centimetres under the level of the worksurface.

(1) Type Position the work surface about an inch below your rested elbow height, allowing your shoulders to be relaxed. Rest your palms – not your wrists – on a palm support. (2) Mouse Position your mouse close to the keyboard to minimize reaching. Avoid anchoring your wrist on the mousing surface. Instead, glide the heel of your palm over the mousing surface and use your entire arm to mouse. (3) View Position the monitor about an arm’s length away with the top line of text at or slightly below eye level. Tilt the monitor slightly away from you so your line of sight is about perpendicular to the monitor. (4) Illuminate Align the monitor and spacebar with the midline of your body and arrange frequently used work tools within easy reach. (5) Align Position a task light to the side opposite your writing hand. Shine it on paper documents but away from computer monitors to reduce glare. (6) Rest Take two or three 30 to 60 second breaks each hour to allow your body to recover from periods of repetitive stress.

SIT: (1) Raise or lower the seat to ensure your thighs are parallel to the floor with your feet flat on the floor or a footrest. (2) Adjust seat pan depth to maintain two inches of clearance between the back of your knees and the front edge of the seat. (3) Adjust backrest height to comfortably fit the small of your back. (4) Adjust the recline tension, if necessary, to support varying degrees of recline throughout the day. Avoid the use of recline locks. (5) Lean back and relax in your chair to allow the backrest to support your upper body.

(6) Type Use an articulating keyboard support and position it 1 to 1.5 inches above your thighs. Angle the keyboard away from your body to keep wrists straight while typing. Rest your palms—not your wrists—on a palm support. (7) Mouse Position your mouse close to the keyboard or over the numeric keypad to minimize reaching. Avoid anchoring your wrist on the desk. Instead, glide the heel of your palm over the mousing surface and use your entire arm to mouse. (8) View Position the monitor at least an arm’s length away with the top line of text at or slightly below eye level. Tilt the monitor away from you so your line of sight is perpendicular to the monitor. (9) Illuminate Position a task light to the side opposite your writing hand. Shine it on paper documents but away from computer monitors to reduce glare. (10) Align Align the monitor and spacebar with the midline of your body and arrange frequently used work tools within easy reach. Prop reference documents between your body and the monitor with an in-line document holder. (11) Rest Take two or three 30- to 60-second breaks each hour to allow your body to recover from periods of repetitive stress.

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