Ergonomics focuses on creating the best fit for you. Often, all it takes are some quick fixes to optimize your workstation for your comfort and safety.

By Linda Weitzel

I receive requests every day. They are for one or more items. An ergonomic chair. An ergonomic keyboard. An ergonomic mouse.

“A simple definition of ‘ergonomic’: Adjustable.” -- Linda Weitzel, senior ergonomist, Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability for Xerox

“A simple definition of ‘ergonomic’: Adjustable.” — Linda Weitzel, senior ergonomist, Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability for Xerox

“Ergonomic” is the word that runs through all of them. And a simple definition of the term is, in one word, “adjustable.”

However, there’s a twist.  Getting an ergonomic chair is only a starting point. Ergonomic is a label. These items are not automatically ergonomic. The adjustable features have to align with the user’s needs. Otherwise, the ergonomic chair is simply not ergonomic. It’s all about fitting the item to the user.

Anatomy of a Workstation

Many of us spend our day at an office workstation. We go to our space, where we perform the same actions, using the same muscles and maintaining the same posture. This routine may be a formula for physical stress.

Ergonomics focuses on your workstation and the strategies to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal disorders. These are injuries to muscles, tendons, nerves or other soft tissues caused or aggravated by patterns of usage. The good news is that there are simple and quick fixes.

Here are 5 items for your computer workstation set-up checklist.

Chair: Position your chair so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor/footrest; your hips are at about a 90 degree angle with your thighs and roughly parallel to the floor. Set your armrests just under your elbow to support your arms without elevating your shoulders. The backrest should support your lumbar curve. (This handy infographic shows a proper setup for your desk.)

Keyboard: Put your keyboard directly in front of you and as close as possible to your body. The correct height: Under your hands with your shoulders relaxed, upper arms at your side and elbows bent 90 degrees or more.

Mouse: Keep your mouse next to and level with your keyboard. Did you know you can switch the button functions on a mouse? This helps left-handers. Click the “start” button, then go to control panel, select mouse options and, under the button tab, check “switch primary/secondary buttons.”

Monitor: Place your monitor directly in front of you at about an arm’s length away. Your eyes should be level with the top of the monitor. Avoid glare from light sources.

If you are using a laptop and don’t have a separate monitor, you should set the laptop on reams of paper (or some kind of platform) so that you achieve the proper height for the screen. (Eye level = top of monitor.) Use an external keyboard and mouse.

Telephone: Use a headset. It eliminates the awkward posture created by holding the headset between your ear and shoulder. As an alternative, if possible, use the telephone speaker function.