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Office Ergonomics: Is Your Current Setup Helping or Hurting Your Health?

Office Ergonomics: Is Your Current Setup Helping or Hurting Your Health?

According to the United States Department of Labor, “Work related MSDs [musculoskeletal disorders] (including those of the neck, upper extremities and low back) are one of the leading causes of lost workday injury and illness.” Furthermore, no one is exempt from enduring these types of injuries, not even if you work behind a desk.

Even though you might not be engaged in a lot of physical labor when operating your small business, due to completing reports, engaging in meetings, and tidying up your computer work, sitting in an unhealthy position day in and day out can do some major damage to your body. For instance, it can create subluxations (misalignments) in your spine, thereby affecting your nervous system and limiting or hindering the contact between your brain and all of your body’s muscles and organs. It also increases your risk of headaches, stomach aches, heart disease, cancer, and more.

One way to help combat these effects is to make sure your office is set up so that it is ergonomically correct. This means that it should be put together in a way that is not only more efficient, but also more safe and healthy.

With that thought in mind, here are some recommendations by the trusted and reliable health professionals at the Mayo Clinic:

  • Your Chair. If your chair is adjustable, then you want it at a height where your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are bent at a 90 degree angle. If you have to, use a footrest. Also, place a pillow or small towel at your small back if your chair doesn’t come with lumbar support as this will help protect the natural curvature of your spine.
  • Your Desk. Ideally, your desk dimensions should be roughly 30 inches wide, 19 inches deep, and no more than 34 inches high (this one depends on your height). Don’t use your foot hole for anything other than your feet either or you may find yourself sitting in awkward positions
  • Your Computer. Your monitor should be 18 to 28 inches in front of your head, and your eyes should be looking at the very top of the screen when you’re staring straight forward. If you’re sitting where there is a glare on your screen, try to move your desk or the light to resolve this type of issue.
  • Your Mouse. You want your mouse where it is easy to reach, so if you really have to stretch to use it, then it is too far away. This may seem minor, but it can really affect your wrist, elbow, and shoulder if you are constantly extending your arm.
  • Your Office Supplies. The less twisting and turning you have to do while grabbing your sticky notes, stapler, and any other office supplies, the better. Keep this in mind when setting up your desk so that the items you use most are within arm’s reach.

Other things to consider for maximum health of your body include using a headset if you spend a lot of time on the phone and making sure your wrists are straight when you’re typing, not resting on your desk or wrist rest. Also, be sure to keep proper posture when sitting at your desk. This means keeping your head forward, your shoulders back and down, your elbows close to your body, and your lower back slightly curved.

If your workers have offices as well, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) offers a Computer Workstation Checklist that you can use to determine whether or not they are ergonomically correct. This can help reduce the number of injuries your employees sustain annually, potentially saving you a lot of money, as well as the time you will lose if they are off work.

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by Christina DeBusk // Freelance writer, author, and small business consultant committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve higher levels of success.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.