October is National Ergonomics Month. That’s a weird word. Calling attention to the importance of effective work environments, the campaign is meant to help refine office product design for maximum health and safety. Concentrating mostly on efficient construction and use of office chairs, desks, computers and keyboards, the field of applied ergonomics is crucial. I wonder if my doghouse is ergonomic.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American works 44 hours per week, or 8.8 hours per day. People who perform repetitive tasks in non-ergonomic environments suffer unnecessary stress, fatigue or even injury. The only repetitive task I like is eating bacon. To minimize your risk of this type of workplace hazard, take a few minutes to review the following tips:
Top 10 Ergonomic Tips (adapted from the Mayo Clinic)
- Maintain good posture. This is important whether you are standing or seated. Standing and sitting up straight reduces stress on the spine.
- Move more. Many workplace injuries are ergonomically related. These include overexertion, awkward posture, vibration and repetitive motions. (This is an even better idea if you have a dog!)
- Take small steps. Small changes net big returns. Incorporate ergonomic designs at your workplace as well as any home office spaces.
- Check your chair. Select a chair that supports your spinal curve. Adjust chair height so your knees are level with your hips and armrests are set to allow your arms rest gently, with shoulders relaxed.
- Wrist control. Make sure your hands remain at or below elbow-level while you are typing. My wrists aren’t at elbow-level pretty much ever.
- Keep your distance. Set your monitor at an arm’s length away.
- Key in. Keep the objects you use most often within easy reach. This might include the telephone, stapler, pens, etc. If you can’t easily reach something, stand up to retrieve it.
- Talk of the town. Place your phone on a speaker or use a handset instead of cradling the phone between your head and neck. I prefer the low-tech twilight bark to telephones.
- Mouse matters. Place your mouse within easy reach on the same surface as your keyboard. Keep wrists straight and upper arms close to the body. Hands should be at or slightly below elbow-level.
- Monitor your behavior. Place the computer monitor directly in front of you, about an arm’s length away. The top of the screen should be at or slightly below eye level. And don’t forget to monitor the behavior of your cat, if applicable!
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