Ergonomics at Work
When I was very young, I used to listen to a radio program for children that always began with the words “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.”
That question has assumed even more importance these days in the workplace. The introduction of computers has changed the ways that we work and with this change has come the need to take a look at the way that we interact with computers and other electronic devices.
The study of how we humans work with the environment is known as ergonomics and has developed in response to a number of problems associated with incorrect posture, long periods of physical inactivity, or repetitive movements such as moving a mouse.
When we interact with computers in our workplace – or at home – we typically hold the same static posture for long periods, at the same time that we perform smaller, finer movements with our eyes, fingers, arms and head. This need to hold our main body position for extended periods of time requires considerable effort, even though we may not notice at the time.
So how can we avoid problems such as eyestrain, pain and inflammation of tendons (known as repetitive strain injury, or RSI) and headaches caused by our modern work environment?
Firstly we must make sure that our work environment is adjusted correctly to suit us as individuals. Take the time to adjust your chair and desk heights so that you can work comfortably without strain – and this includes footstools if necessary and providing adequate support for your arms and legs.
Make sure that your monitor is also set to the most comfortable angle and distance from you. Adjust the lighting at your workplace to avoid glare and if copy typing from other documents use a copyholder to place this material at a comfortable reading distance without the need to strain or twist your body.
It is important to take breaks from time to time – every 20 minutes or so is recommended, if possible – to shift your position, take a short walk and stretch muscles. To avoid RSI, try to vary your work with different tasks so that you use different muscle groups. And something that is often overlooked – make sure you get your eyes checked regularly. It may be worth while investing in special glasses for use with computer work.