Do you sit right? - Proper work area layout.

There are good reasons behind ergonomic chairs and equipment. Proper sitting, furnishings and work area layout can contribute enormously to avoiding Repetitive Strain Injuries like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as well as Back, Neck, Shoulder and Leg problems. Below is a list of key points that are considered by many experts to be the proper way to sit while on the job. Although it is best to alter your position frequently to encourage blood flow, if your standard position diverges significantly from the one shown below, you should consider adjusting or upgrading your work area. Remember, many of these problems are not only painful but often difficult or impossible to cure. In this area, "Prevention is always the best medicine."

  1. Your head should be above your shoulders. Don't slouch forward. Slouching causes uneven pressure between your vertebrae and eventually neck and/or lower back problems.
  2. The top your monitor's screen should be about even or a slightly lower than eye level. A too low or too high screen will cause uneven pressure on neck vertebrae. This can be corrected by the use of risers if it is too low. Also, the monitor should be directly in front of you, not to the side. Additionally, position the monitor so there is no glare on the screen. If this isn't possible, you may need a glare screen. Glare not only causes eye strain but may make you sit abnormally in order to see the screen clearly.
  3. If you use hard copy often, it should be kept close to the monitor in an upright position. Laying reference material on the desk not only makes it difficult to read and keep your place but causes unnecessary head movement and strain. A variety of document holders are available to correct this like the one shown.
  4. If your keyboard and mouse are on your worksurface, you should consider an adjustable keyboard/mouse tray like the one shown. Having your keyboard/mouse on the desktop causes significant undue strain on your wrists by creating too much wrist bend and also can position you too close to the monitor.
  5. Your keyboard should be tilted back as shown, not forward as frequently seen. Your keyboard tray should have an adjustment for this. This keeps your hands from being bent up at the wrist which is a common cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Also, place your palms on a wrist rest, not your wrist. Just the weight of your arm can cause enough pressure on the underside of your wrist to impede blood flow and cause symptoms related to CTS.
  6. Your hands should be kept in-line with your forearms. Bending your wrist up/down or to either side causes the tendons running through your wrists to rub against their protective sheaths more than necessary and become damaged. The damage leads to swelling and ultimately CTS.
  7. Always try to rest your elbows on your armrest with your hands even with your elbows or ideally, slightly lower. Using your upper body to hold the weight of your arms can strain any number of muscles in your shoulders and back and even cause headaches.
  8. Armrests are critical to preventing neck, shoulder, back and hand problems. Ideally the armrest should have adjustments for horizontal distance from your torso as well as height. The top of the armrest should always have a cushion to reduce the chance of deviation of the ulnar nerve.
  9. Your chair seat should be tilted forward slightly. This helps keep the natural curve in your back thus reducing uneven pressure on the vertebrae in your lower back. It also helps reduce pressure on the underside of your thighs which can impede blood flow and cause leg and foot problems like varicose veins. The front edge of the seat should be rounded for the same reason. The seat cushion should, in some manner, reduce "pressure points" on your buttocks by spreading your weight evenly over the surface of the seat. This is so your pelvic and tail bones don't carry all your weight and cause discomfort which you may try to avoid by sitting improperly.
  10. The back of your chair should not only support your back but help maintain the natural hollow in your lower back. Many chairs have a built-in lumbar support for this reason. The back should be adjustable up and down and back and forward. Ideally, the back should be able to be adjusted while you are seated.
  11. Ideally, your chair should have adjustments that can be easily used while seated. The back and seat should have independent adjustments and not a fixed angle as in traditional swivel-tilt chairs. Easy-to-use adjustments help you change your position quickly or help multiple users readjust the chair for their needs. A chair that is difficult to adjust may discourage you from keeping the chair adjusted properly.
  12. Your chair should have a five star base. Four or three star bases can tip over.
  13. You should be able to keep your feet flat on the floor. Sometimes because the worksurface is too high or the user is a bit short, this is not possible even with the chair adjusted properly. If they do not, you should consider a footrest. Dangling feet create undue pressure on the back of your thighs which impedes blood flow. Also, never sit with your legs crossed or any leg up on the chair seat for the same reason.

We hope this page helps you understand the how's and why's proper work area layout. If you have any further questions, please contact us or Atlanta Office Planners, Inc.