It may seem like a simple matter of comfort, but approximately 80 percent of Americans engage in daily, long-duration use of laptop and desktop computers, primarily at work. Thus, workstation ergonomics is truly an issue of injury prevention, employee morale
and workplace productivity, says Buffalo Grove physical therapist Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS.
In fact, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) statistics reveal that injuries resulting from workplace musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) due to poor workspace ergonomics account for 34 percent of all lost workday injuries and illnesses.
Neck and low-back strains, carpal tunnel syndrome, and shoulder pain stemming from tendinitis and/or bursitis are becoming increasingly
prevalent in the workplace, despite being preventable, says Dr. Raghunath, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports
“Sitting in fixed and constrained positions while typing or performing other clerical duties, and done repeatedly year after year, can take a toll on the body over time, leaving you more vulnerable to musculotendinous and nerve-related injuries, leading to missed workdays and lost
productivity,” Dr. Raghunath said.
OSHA estimates that implementation of proper workstation ergonomics can increase productivity by an average of 11 percent.
“Ultimately, a comfortable workspace that complements your body and ensures optimal postural health helps ensure high employee morale
and, in turn, maximizes workplace longevity and efficiency,” said Dr. Raghunath.
While both workers and workplaces come in varying shapes and sizes, below are some basic guidelines for creating a safe, comfortable and
healthy workstation, according to Dr. Raghunath:
- Adjust your desk, chair, keyboard and mouse to enable your forearms, wrists and hands to rest in a straight line, parallel to the floor. Use a supplementary wrist wrest for your keyboard and mouse, if needed.
- While sitting, allow your upper arms to rest normally on either side of your body, elbows bent 90 degrees.
- Keep your head level (or bent slightly forward) and in line with the rest of your body. The top of your computer monitor should sit slightly below eye level, with the screen about an arm’s length away.
- Ensure your chair provides appropriate lumbar support, allowing for a slight concave curve of the lower spine.
- Keep your knees at approximately the same (or slightly lower) height as your hips to ensure that your feet rest flat on the floor. If your feet still do not reach the floor, use a footrest as a bolster.
- Take frequent breaks throughout the day by standing up and stretching for a few minutes every half hour. Additionally, if possible take a
walk during break periods or during lunch.
- If stiffness, soreness, pain and/or numbness persist, it may be time to visit a physical therapist for a thorough assessment. However, before even reaching this point, the clinical team at Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation can work with you to help prevent the onset of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD), in efforts to optimize workplace productivity and, ultimately, your bottom line.