This is the last part of the 2-part series and a continuation of Episode 71, so be sure to check out Part 1. As I’ve mentioned in the previous part, there are a lot of misconceptions about ergonomics being expensive or complex that stand in the way of us helping as many people as possible. The aim of this series is to show how we, as Ergonomic Professionals, can help our clients the most and offer solutions to common ergonomics challenges. In this post, I’m going to share five more simple, zero-cost solutions that you can put in place in the office. You can use these simple solutions to help your clients or you can share these with your prospects as part of your Marketing initiatives.
Having a brighter monitor screen isn't necessarily good for you. Many people use a monitor that’s too bright for them, which can result in eye fatigue and strain over time. Some people even use more than one monitor, and it’s rare that they're set up on the same level of brightness, especially if they're not the same brand. As professionals, we all know that it’s important to match the screen brightness to the surrounding workplace brightness. For most people, this means that the brightness needs to be lowered.
This is an easy way to add another element of improvement to your ergonomic assessments. To adjust the screen brightness, just press the little button on the monitor or go to the System Preferences (for Mac). You want to reduce the monitor brightness to 50% (my current monitor brightness is set to about 30%), but it really depends on the make and model of your monitor. It’ll take a bit of trial and error to get the ideal brightness level, but your client will certainly feel immediate relief after you set it up properly.
The monitor distance plays a factor in not only how clear we can see things but also our posture. Monitors that are too far away can cause the user to lean forward in their chair. This can put a lot of strain on their lower back and can also result in awkward neck positioning.
Typically, the monitor should be placed within one arm’s length away from the user. This is to make sure that they’re properly seated in their chair and able to look at the monitor with comfortable vision. But how about if there’s more than one monitor? Well, all you need to do is set up the main monitor (the one used for more than 70% of the time) directly in front of the user.
For monitors that are really big or if your client has more than two monitors, they may require more visual distance. To ensure that the monitors are properly adjusted, you need to do trial and error to find the best distance for that person. Being said that the monitor is going to be further away, you want to increase the fonts of the monitor system. You want to make sure that the user can view the words as easily as possible.
Armrests are some of the most interesting parts of doing ergonomic assessments. The reason for this is because some people say that the best possible posture can only be achieved if there are no armrests attached to the chair. However, other people also insist that armrests must always be attached. Personally, an optimal ergonomic set-up is when the armrest can be fully adjusted to fit the user. This means that the user should be able to comfortably support their forearms on the armrest without hunching up their shoulders (too high), or slouching (too low), or leaning to the side to reach the armrest (too wide).
I often see armrests that are either too high or too wide for the person and can’t be fully adjusted to fit the user anymore. This can result in or contribute to shoulder discomfort if used for a prolonged time. If you’ve done office assessments before, I’m sure you’ve noticed this ergonomic risk too. So how can you help your clients in this type of situation? Do you recommend they get a different type of chair? Do you recommend they replace the armrests? Do you recommend that they remove the armrests? What I can say is that the solution is totally dependent on your client's preferences, budget, habits, as well as your personal experience.
The seat pan of the chair (the part of the chair that you sit on) should be fit to the length of the person’s thigh. This is a type of adjustment that's only made once. However, there are some cases in which adjustment is made frequently. One example of this is when the person is using a shared chair. This is actually becoming quite prevalent nowadays because people are working remotely and they only need to come into the office once or twice a week. The goal here is to make sure that there's no contact between the back of that user's calf and that the user is getting enough support from the seat pan. This is a really simple, zero-cost fix that can greatly improve the comfort of your client.
When typing, your wrists should be straight, and your hands should be aligned with your forearm. This limits non-neutral wrist up and down and side to side bending that can be related to the development of wrist discomfort.
There are a lot of solutions for the keyboard, but one thing you need to consider is the back legs. The back legs are those little prongs on the far side of the keyboard that angles it upwards and creates a positive tilt. Does your client’s keyboard have its back legs extended? If your client is working like that for hours on end, it can cause their wrists to bend downwards and lead to strain. There are some situations where a positive tilt may actually be beneficial. However, if your client is sitting upright, a positive tilt will most likely lead to some wrist discomfort because of the wrist extension. So what I recommend you do is to lower the extended legs of the keyboard.
Another factor to consider is if the person is experiencing discomfort while using a keyboard tray with a positive angle in the keyboard. What you can do is remove the back legs of the keyboard and place it in the keyboard tray into a negative tilt. Negative tilt is generally the most recommended type of keyboard position because it eliminates the wrist extension.
And that’s it! Those are the other five no-cost solutions you can implement in the office. A lot of these things do take time and experience to navigate, and the best way to get experience is to get more ergonomics assessments under your belt. The changes I’ve shared in this two-part series show that ergonomics doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. There's a lot of creativity involved with doing ergonomics assessments, and with your foundation of the ergonomics principles, you can easily tailor the workstation to fit your clients.
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