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What is Office Ergonomics?

Jun 6, 2008
Not many people would consider the office place a dangerous working environment. There is the slight possibility of getting a paper cut, yes. There is also a great deal of electrical equipment that could be dangerous if not operated properly. And then there is the stapler... In reality, the most dangerous situation in the workplace is you; and how you orient yourself at your desk or machine. Ergonomics is the scientific principle of understanding how the human body reacts with the systems and machines that we use each day.

Typically, ergonomics is a general, vague term that can apply to a whole number of situations and scenarios. Most scientists agree on five principle areas of discipline for studying ergonomics: safety, comfort, ease of use, performance and aesthetics. All of these categories are critical to maintaining the physical health and well being of those who operate mechanical and technological systems. These principles can be applied to a wide range of systems; entertainment centers, automated voice systems (such as the recorded messages we all deal with when trying to reach customer service) and even mental systems (memory and learning) all have been analyzed under the study of ergonomics. However, one of the most relevant systems to the everyday habits of humans is the study of ergonomics in the workplace.

Typically, most people who work in an office environment spend up to a third of their days seated in front of a computer screen. Office ergonomics deals with all aspects of the work station that have a direct impact on the body. Chairs, keyboards, monitors and mice can all be adjusted to be more compliant with the disciplines of ergonomics. The main idea is establishing a neutral reach zone for the user's hands and arms. This allows for everything to be an arm's reach away without the operator needing to rotate their arms more than 45 degrees in either direction.

An ergonomically acquiescent chair will do two things. First, the chair will provide a sturdy, 100 degree angle for the operator's back. Second, it will also raise the eye level of the operator to a level with the screen. It is important that the user need not tilt their head up or down to view the screen. The ergonomic chair should also have arm rests which hit at the user's elbows.

The ergonomic monitor will be fitted with an anti glare screen. Positioning of the monitor is also important to office ergonomics. The monitor should be no closer than arms length away from the user. The resolution and contrast should be clear and crisp enough to allow the operator to see the screen while leaning slightly backward in his or her chair. Another feature of the ergonomic monitor is document holders. These can be attached to the monitor and allow the user to work without constantly moving his or head back and forth.

There are many other aspects of office ergonomics to consider. Hands free headsets, for example, not only relieve the comfort and ease of use principles of ergonomics; they also increase productivity up to 45% according to many studies.
About the Author
If you're new to office ergonomics then start yourself off with an ergonomic keyboard and vertical mouse - Your body will thank you.
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