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How to Use Proper Posture as a Guide to Office Ergonomics

Do you sometimes feel discomfort when sitting at your desk? The chair you use can make a difference in your ability to work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) continues its efforts to legislate more ergonomic factors into the workplace, and, while many businesses prefer not to have so many factors legislated, we need to be aware of and understand the basic principles of ergonomics.

Ergonomics can be approached on two levels - the scientific one where rigorous studies are conducted and mathematical models built. The second level is simply common sense. It is not hard to figure out that a box is easier to pick up when it is at waist height rather than on the floor.

Your chair is an important part of your workspace. It is more beneficial to spend the money on a well-constructed chair that conforms to your body than it is to spend the money on a desk that looks impressive. There is not one chair that is best for everyone, so you need to "test drive" several before making a decision.

Work in a neutral position. If your body is not aligned for a certain period of time, you can feel the strain and stress in various joints.

Back: Let your back maintain its natural "S-curve". Avoid sitting up straight with a 90 degree angle between your back and thighs. It is better to be leaning back slightly when sitting, with an angle of about 120 degrees between your thighs and spine.

Shoulders: A good chair back has a lumbar support in the right spot for your spinal curve, and a slope that lets you keep a relaxed position. If you are hunched up or leaning forward all the time, you will feel the strain and fatigue.

Elbows: When working at a keyboard, place your elbows at your sides, not winged out. Adjustable armrests, along with an adjustable keyboard tray, will give you many options to try until you find the correct level for you.

Wrists and Hands: A neutral position is important here too. Keep the hand in the same plane as the forearm. Ergonomic keyboards are not just a gimmick. They do work better, helping to keep the wrist from bending. Carpal tunnel syndrome appears to be approaching epidemic levels in some professions. Pay attention to the others in your office. If you don't do much typing yourself, but others in your office do, notice their work posture also.

Neck: If you find yourself bending or twisting your neck when working, consider making some changes. It helps to have the monitor directly in front of you and at the right height. Do you recognize these symptoms: bifocal neck, nearsighted neck, and telephone neck? Take a mental snapshot of yourself.

Up to half of an office workforce may have physical ailments that can be related to inadequate office furniture. As corrections are made, it is not unusual to find immediate advances in productivity.

A well-constructed chair is a small price to pay when you consider the long-term effects.

© 2008 Denise Landers, Key Organization Systems, Inc.

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