Arranging your workspace to minimise injury and protect your health

More than likely, you’ve already heard that too much sitting isn’t good for your health and the importance of maintaining a good sitting posture while working in the office. If so, do you know how to set up a computer workstation to reduce the chance of repetitive type strain injuries?

By setting up your office correctly, you can work more comfortably at work, minimise injuries caused by awkward positions or repetitive tasks and reduce your stress levels.

Here are some small and simple changes you can make to your workspace to benefit the most:

  • Take note whether you are actually having some difficulty seeing the characters on the screen clearly and take the steps to fix (such as changing the computer / monitor settings or your eyewear).
  • Position the computer monitor/s so that they are positioned directly in front of you, so that you don’t need to turn or tilt your head or back.
  • When using a laptop for a long period of time, use a separate full-sized keyboard, mouse and monitor.
  • Make sure your forearms are supported on the front of your desk while using the keyboard, with only a slight, to no angle at your wrists.
  • Make sure you are not experiencing any glare and shadowing on the screen. This can be overcome by adjusting the window shadings, lighting or position of the monitor.
  • Make sure to give yourself enough space. It is best to use both the keyboard and mouse at the same level on your desk.
  • Adjust your chair so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees and that you have suitable lumbar support. Also make sure you can work with your feet flat on the ground or footrest.
  • Make sure that fixed armrests are not preventing you from sitting close enough to your desk. If so, remove these in order to sit in the most comfortable position.

One of the most important things to remember is to get up and move regularly. Make sure to frequently stand up and walk around whenever possible. Try and organise your circumstances to maximise these times on your feet: walk to the printer, have a face to face talk with a work colleague rather than phoning or emailing them, have a walking meeting or standing time during meetings.

When working long hours sitting at a computer week after week, it becomes extremely important to make sure you are doing enough exercise in between your shifts. To get the best benefit, make sure to do adequate cardiovascular (fitness), resistance (strength) and flexibility training. By taking this step, you will best protect yourself from developing lifestyle related health issues and unnecessary strains or pain. You will also likely find that you will feel much better during your working day and also be more productive.

If you tend to experience lower back ache during the course of your day while sitting down, it may be helpful to sit on a swiss ball for some of the day while working. The advantage here is that the unsteady surface of the ball encourages your postural muscles to increase in activity and stay more active. This may or may not be an appropriate addition to your workspace, but will depend on your circumstances and the health and safety guidelines governing your work place.

If you feel that you need personalised assistance with any of the above and in particular are considering how to modify your work environment to minimise ongoing pain, please visit me for a consultation. Exercise Physiology is claimable through most health funds.

Mick Craven

Exercise Physiologist