Ergomonics and IT – II

Take a Break Before ‘IT’ Breaks You – Part II


Ergonomic Workstation
Ergonomic Chair
Monitor Adjustments
Work Habits


To create a workstation that fits you, try the following suggestions: Proceed with caution. What is right for one person may NOT be for another. Listen to your body. If your discomfort goes away – you are probably on the right track. Adjust your workstation; remember – ….One size does not fit all!!!. Also use Good Posture. Practice the following habits:

  • Head should be over shoulders — looking forward
  • Shoulders must be relaxed and comfortable
  • Keep the wrists straight
  • Lower back should be supported (don’t slouch)
  • Feet must be settled on floor or footrest
  • Forearms/Thighs must be parallel to floor
  • DO NOT stick your neck out!
  • DO NOT type with a twisted posture
  • Adjust your furniture to fit you!


The work chair should have the following features:

  • Adjustable height
  • Comfortable lumbar support
  • Waterfall front (rounded front edge on the seat pan)
  • Five legs (stability) -wheels
  • Fabric that breathes
  • Comfortable seat pan that fits and swivels


Keyboards should be adjusted to provide comfortable posture. Place keyboard at approximately seated elbow height (25-32″ from floor) and work with wrists straight – not bent. Don’t POUND on the keys: use a light touch. Hold the mouse lightly, don’t grip it hard or squeeze it. Place the pointing device where you don’t have to reach up or over very far to use it; close to the keyboard is best. Better yet: learn and use keyboard equivalent commands whenever possible, as no pointing device is risk-free. Even trackballs have injured users. Keep wrists straight. Using a padded wrist rest can help.


Monitors should be adjusted to provide the most comfortable viewing position. Position top of screen at or just below eye level. Maintain a comfortable eye/monitor distance (generally an arm’s length — approximately 24 inches for a 14 – 17 inch monitor). Decrease glare on screen. Place the monitor perpendicular to window. Close blinds. Use antiglare screen. Tilt screen (backward 10 to 20 degrees). Dim lights. Keep monitor ventilated and clean. Adjust color, brightness, contrast for eye comfort. Copy holders should be placed next to screen. Distance and eye level from screen and copyholder to your face should be the same.


Use safe and efficient work habits and reorganize the workplace to your comfort. The following are some guidelines that will help you in getting started:

  • Reduce repetitive tasks
  • Encourage “break jobs” – These are non-computer-related tasks which can be performed as a rest job away from the computer (i.e., filing, telephoning, copying).
  • Take more mini-breaks – reduce longer breaks
  • Practice stress-reduction techniques
  • Use safe lifting techniques like assessing the load first, keeping weight close to your body, keeping the natural curve in your back, lifting with your legs, etc. Also, do not twist your body while lifting.
  • Alternate between standing and sitting – Stand with one foot elevated to reduce lower back stress.
  • Minimize stress on body by using antifatigue mats, footrests, padded grips, etc.
  • Take care of your eyes by having periodic eye examinations; tell your doctor that you work at a computer. Also exercise eye muscles to reduce strain (blink, rotate the eyeballs, look into the distance).
  • Perform stretch breaks – Incorporate stretching exercises into your schedule (i.e., roll shoulders, bend backwards, turn head from side to side). Hold each stretch for 5 to 10 seconds.
  • Pursue a healthy lifestyle – Exercise regularly, stretch and warm up before you begin; cool down when you finish, begin easy — exercise should not cause pain. If injury is present, seek advice from your doctor.
  • Use comfortable lighting – Adjust level of lighting to slightly dimmer than general office lighting and minimize reflective surfaces, adjust blinds/curtains and use task lighting.
  • If you use the telephone extensively, practice good habits like keeping the neck straight, using shoulder rests, speaker phone, headset, etc. and do remember to place the phone within easy reach.
  • Practice efficient workspace organization – Clean/reorganize equipment to fit your working needs and keep most frequently used items within easy reach — don’t twist/stretch.
  • Noise abatement – Reduce equipment noise (relocate printers). Keep coffeepot away from central work area. Encourage employees to direct conversation away from other employees.
  • Temperature comfort – Maintain comfortable working temperature (68 – 72 °).


Above all eliminate unnecessary computer usage. No amount of ergonomic changes, fancy keyboards, or exercises are going to help if you are simply typing more than your body can handle. Don’t try to be the fastest, most powerful hacker around – the cost is too high. Reduce the recreational computer use. And if possible cut down on the computer/video games . . . which often involve long, unbroken sessions of very tense keyboard or mouse/joystick use. If nothing else, PAUSE the game every 3 – 4 minutes. Don’t sacrifice your hands to a game! Although many kinds of work can bring on RSI symptoms, computer users are particularly at risk. So, if your hands hurt or tingle when you use a keyboard, or if you get pain in your elbow, wrist, or shoulder, SEE YOUR DOCTOR…IMMEDIATELY!!!

Alexis Leon, DQ Week Madras, 17th March 1997.

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