In the late 1970’s there was a man who frequently made the four-hour drive between Detroit and Toronto. When he bought a new car he was, for the first time, introduced to power seats. On his next trip to Toronto, he decided to put them to the test. After about an hour he tilted his seat and seat back forward just a little. An hour later he brought it to his normal position, and after another hour he powered the seat forward and tilted it back a little. When he got to Toronto he reset his seat to his normal city driving position. Upon arriving at his final destination, he was surprised at the difference it made and at how good he felt. He said “I feel like the trip was much shorter.”
Our Workplace (Office) is our “Car”
Our Ergonomic Office Tools are our “Power Seats”
and our Workday is our “Trip”
As we “journey through” our workday, there are things we can do to shorten our trip and, just like the man with the new car who was introduced to power seats, we are being introduced to important, ergonomic office tools. However, just like power car seats that never get adjusted, ergonomic office tools are of little advantage if they are not used to their full potential.
Your best posture is your next posture
Regardless of how perfectly we fit into our car or our workplace, no one posture is right for extended periods. We are designed to move. Therefore, our best posture is our next one. It is important to understand, not only which are the correct tools, but how to use them to their full potential.
Necessary Tools for the Ergonomic Office
- Ergonomic Task Chair
- Electric Height Adjustable Work Station (EHAWS)
- Adjustable Monitor Arm
- Anti-fatigue Mat
Ergonomic Task Chair
Adjustable seats made it feel like the trip was much shorter. The chair must fit the one sitting in the chair. One size cannot fit all. The ergonomic design, size, and its ability to adjust to an individual matters. To provide proper support, the width of the seat pan and the distance between the arm rests are vital factors. Some individuals require a short seat pan, while others need it to be fairly deep. The width of the back and the location of the lumbar support are crucial. The chair height range is also important. The ability to alter the height and angle of the seat and back are important factors.
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Understand your Paddles
Knowing how to alter your chair is as important as setting the initial fit adjustment. In addition to seat height, important adjustments like seat pan depth & tilt, back height & tilt and lumbar support adjustment, are often available and are recommended – but seldom understood or altered.
Notice the images presented by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) indicating the suggested posture changes for computer work. The first three postures can all be accomplished with most good, ergonomically designed task chairs. Until recently, the “Upright” posture was the only recommendation. The sedentary nature of computer work has prompted the addition of the other three. Yet none are exclusive but each are suggested to be adopted as we journey through our workday.
Humans are designed to move…
Proper ergonomic seating, though important, is not the only answer – long term. Humans are designed to move. That’s why we’re hearing so much about the perils of our sedentary lifestyle. In the past, we have been told that a good ergonomic chair will solve much – and it’s still valid. But sitting at a desk (or anywhere for that matter) for 3 hours or more is bad for us regardless of how ergonomically well designed is our chair. We need to get up! And that brings us to the Standing Posture shown in image 4.
“A new study in Australia has shown that reducing your sitting time by only two hours a day can result in improvements in blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and likely your metabolism. For many people these subtle changes could be the stimulus that enables them to turn the corner to address increasing waistlines, borderline diabetes issues or other health challenges” Source: Dr. Mark Kestner, 5 Tips to Help People Who Sit
Tomorrow’s work space will adjust to its people.
Traditionally, people adjusted to their work space, but that’s no longer valid. Tomorrow’s work space will adjust to its people.
“There will come a time when a sedentary seated working environment will be deemed completely unhealthy. The thing that people need to remember is that it’s not an on-trend product that we’ve just suddenly developed to address a gap in the market." - Source: Kinnarps
Electric Height Adjustable Work Stations (EHAWS)
EHAWS allow the user the ability to transition from a sitting to a standing posture and back again, whenever desired as they journey through their workday. The transition is usually effortless with a quick, quiet, smooth motion. Not being load sensitive, these desks have considerably more capacity than the weight that is commonly placed upon them. Some EHAWS are programmable and can be set to a persons preferred sitting and standing postures. Seldom is it necessary to have more than two programmable position settings unless multiple people are using the same EHAWS.
EHAWS are more than Sit-Stand Desks
An added benefit over fixed height desks, that is seldom realized, is the EHAWS ability to be lowered to the users comfortable keying height. A standard fixed height desk at 29” is too high for comfortable keying for most of us. Many EHAWS have three stage legs with ranges that extend between approximately 22.5” and 48” (572mm & 1219mm). This allows everyone from the 5th percentile female to the 95th percentile male to both sit and stand comfortably while using their computer. (refer to Ergonomic Assessment Chart)
Another benefit of the EHAWS is that the entire work surface and everything on it stays accessible. Unlike keyboard trays that, as you pull them out, force you to back away from your desk surface, or desktop converters that leave the surface behind (below) as you raise them up.
Monitors & Monitor Arms
Clean windshields reduce eye strain from the night glare of on-coming car lights. Placing the monitor at the correct height and distance helps to prevent possible health effects such as excessive fatigue, eye strain, and neck and back pain. Monitor arms provide the ability to easily make the necessary adjustments distance, height and tilt angle.
Monitors that are housed on their own stands often take up unnecessary desk space and seldom have the flexibility to allow the monitor to be positioned correctly.
Monitor Positioning (recommendations by OSHA)
- Generally, the preferred viewing distance is between 20 and 40 inches (50 and 100 cm) from the eye to the front surface of the computer screen
- The top of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye level. The center of the computer monitor should normally be located 15 to 20 degrees below horizontal eye level.
- The entire visual area of the display screen should be located so the downward viewing angle is never greater than 60 degrees when you are in any of the four OSHA reference postures. In the reclining posture the straight forward line of sight will not be parallel with the floor, which may increase the downward viewing angle. Using very large monitors also may increase the angle.
Monitors and Bifocal Users
Bifocal users typically view the monitor through the bottom portion of their lenses. This causes them (us) to tilt the head backward to see a monitor that may otherwise be appropriately placed. As with a monitor that is too high, this can fatigue muscles that support the head.
- Lower the monitor (below recommendations for non-bifocal users) so you can maintain appropriate neck postures. You may need to tilt the monitor screen up toward you.
- Raise the chair height until you can view the monitor without tilting your head back. You may have to raise the keyboard and use a foot rest or lower your height adjustable desk.
- Use a pair of single-vision lenses with a focal length designed for computer work. This will eliminate the need to look through the bottom portion of the lens.
Adhere to the 20-20-20 Rule
To help prevent eye strain the 20-20-20 Rule applies to anyone who uses a computer for extended periods.
Every 20 minutes, look at something that is at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Good floor mats are a prerequisite for any car – especially during our Canadian winters. While standing at your computer, anti-fatigue mats make the “standing” part of sit-stand something to look forward to. Studies have shown that anti-fatigue mats were able to reduce the level of fatigue and discomfort while standing by as much as 50%. Anti-fatigue mats protect feet, legs and the back from physical aches and strains while enhancing sense of well-being – a perfect companion for your EHAWS.