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Despite the many laws and regulations concerning working conditions, most remote office workstations are not designed with ergonomics in mind. Most remote workers have been working from Ad Hoc workstations since the beginning of the pandemic. This article posts a summarized manual for making the perfect ergonomic workplace because there is a lack of resources for distributed teams and a distinct relationship between comfort, productivity, and employer healthcare costs.
In a study conducted by the Integrated Benefits Institute, for every 1,000 U.S. employees who experience chronic back pain in the workforce, businesses spend on average $442,000 in excess healthcare treatments and lost work time. The costs have steadily increased over the last decade, and much uncertainty remains on how organizations will approach the issue with so many employees working from home.
As more companies continue working remotely, they will have to consider the common side effects of poor posture or a lackluster office chair. The loss in productivity alone from uncomfortable employees is reason enough to take a closer look at your remote workstation's design.
This document examines the eight most important aspects of your remote ergonomic workstation while incorporating the requirements of legislation (EU) so that you will also be complying with working conditions legislation.
Ergonomics brings together anatomy, physiology, psychology, engineering, and statistics to design equipment that compliments the human body. The science-based discipline came about in response to a history of people having to adapt to poor designs and work in uncomfortable, stressful, and sometimes dangerous environments. Now a multi-million dollar industry, many employers invest in ergonomic products to provide a safe and productive environment for their employees.
Office ergonomics are known to reduce musculoskeletal diseases, and these injuries account for more than 33% of all worker's compensation costs that corporations can be liable for. In the remote era, it is now more important than ever to consider employee health and wellness. People are spending more time sitting down and are leading more sedentary lifestyles.
Finding the right ergonomic equipment can be a hassle for any company with numerous products and providers out there. Companies, mainly distributed teams that use a third-party remote partner to source and deliver the best office furniture to their spread out personnel, will save on these compensation costs in the long run. Workers have also reported increased productivity and happiness levels when they are in a more comfortable work setting.
A work desk should be at least 32 inches (80 cm) deep and 48 inches (120 cm) wide. This work desk should be located within a space of at least 43 square feet (four square meters) to give the employee enough freedom of movement.
Desk height should be adjustable, preferably between 24 to 33 inches (60 and 82 cm). For a sit-stand desk or standing desk, this should be from 24 to 50 inches (60 to 125 cm), with a minimum range of 25 to 48 inches (62 to 120 cm). The proper height of a standing desk is adjusted to elbow height or just above elbow height. Adjustable desk height is the defining characteristic of any ergonomic desk. An adjustable standing desk for small spaces is preferable to a conventional desk.
A work surface measuring 24-33 inches (60-82 cm) can be used by at least 90% of people. Sit-stand desks can contribute to a higher level of work comfort, especially with regard to relieving neck pain. According to a study conducted by the Association for Psychological Science, using an adjustable sit stand desk instead of a conventional desk also appears to increase concentration.
Although not a complete remedy for more severe back injuries or a way to obtain proper posture, doctors recommend a combination of sitting, standing, and walking for a healthy posture. Software programs can give employees training in using a standing desk and reminding them of when to sit and stand.
Foot support: a footrest must have an adjustable range of at least 4.5 inches (11 cm) and an angle-adjustable from 5 to 15°.
When a work surface or office chair is not adjustable in height (or cannot be adjusted sufficiently for the user), a footrest is sometimes required.
This footrest must be at least 18 inches (45 cm) wide and 14 inches (35 cm) deep, must have an adjustable range of at least 4.5 inches (11 cm ), and the slope of the support surface must be adjustable from at least 5 to 15 degrees. For an ergonomic workspace, it is crucial to provide footrests that can be adjusted quickly and easily.
The backrest must be capable of tilting back by at least 15°. The angle between the backrest and the seat must be less than 90° at the pelvis, so a swiveling chair is preferable to a chair with a synchronous mechanism.
The backrest of a standard office chair comes with a synchronous mechanism. The piece tilts in a ratio of 1:2, 1:3, or 1:4 in relation to the seat so that the backrest never performs a full arc. This design does not provide sufficient lumbar support and can result in more significant discomfort in the back and legs. The angle of the backrest of an ergonomic office chair with a tilting mechanism can be adjusted separately from the seat to keep the angle between the seat and backrest (which is tilted slightly backward) at around 90°.
An ergonomic chair conforms to the body's shape, supports the spine, and is customizable depending on the remote worker's needs. Providing ergonomic chairs that meet the previously mentioned recommendations increase working comfort. A training session about ergonomic products should be a component of businesses' onboarding process. Workers will understand how to get the most comfortable using an ergonomic chair and learn to adjust the seat height.
When working with the computer, the user's arms must be properly supported by comfortable, height-adjustable armrests. This can be accomplished using an adjustable desk surface, the chair’s arm rests, or an armrest attached to the desk surface.
The arms should be supported at elbow height or a little higher and combined with a sitting position that also allows the arms to hang in a relaxed place next to the body. Adequate arm support will decrease neck pain and shoulder stress. Having an armrest has also been shown to reduce carpal tunnel syndrome.
Positioning of documents: The documents must be placed in line with the keyboard, and a slightly sloping work surface should be used for reading and writing.
It is advisable to place documents or a document holder between the keyboard and display screen to prevent neck rotation. A sloping work surface reduces flexion of the neck and thus increases work comfort.
Ideally, the display screen should measure at least 19 inches. When using more than one application at any given time, it is advisable to work with two computer screens simultaneously, or at least with a widescreen monitor.
A 19-inch screen provides greater work comfort than screens of smaller dimensions because this larger screen results in less neck flexing. The resolution of a display screen indicates the number of pixels used in constructing it: the greater the resolution (number of pixels), the sharper the image.
However, the downside to this is that a screen of the same size with high resolution leads to smaller characters on the screen. The Pixel size is also expressed in the pixel pitch, which should be no smaller than 0.25 mm and preferably larger than 0.28 mm.
The other most important specifications:
Research shows that it is possible to increase productivity by 20-30% using two or more screens. However, achieving these goals also means adjusting the screens properly not to strain your neck as you move your head back and forth across the screens. A monitor arm or monitor stand is a practical solution to find the perfect position for your workstation.
The viewing distance should determine the character size. The viewing distance should be 150 times the character size (a character size of 4 mm, therefore, corresponds to a viewing distance of 60 cm/24 inches). A relatively large viewing distance results in less eye strain because the eyes do not need to accommodate as much. You can use a variety of monitor arms or laptop stands to reach the perfect height and distance.
However, moving the screen farther from the viewer also means that the characters on the screen will have to be enlarged proportionally. Most people do not consider it, but you can adjust the character size in any web browser by clicking on the top bar's view tab. You then can adjust the level of zoom to fit your working conditions. Word or google docs also has a zoom function that allows the characters displayed in the active document to be made larger or smaller. Larger characters are read faster than small ones.
The complete display screen must be positioned in an area that is 10-20° below eye level. A monitor in this position reduces eye strain in general because it allows the eyes to accommodate better and converge.
While legislation stipulates that a screen should be adjustable to suit the user's needs, a laptop screen's adjustability is minimal. Adjusting the height of a laptop screen requires the use of a monitor arm or laptop stand.
Using a laptop stand and a separate mouse and keyboard has been shown to increase productivity by 17%.
Clicking and scrolling: It is important to avoid static, unnatural bodily postures when clicking and scrolling with a mouse (extension and ulnar deviation of the wrist, pronation of the lower arm).
The mouse should be kept as close to the user's body as possible (right next to the keyboard). If you are seldom crunching numbers, then using a compact keyboard could be considered since this places the mouse closer to the user's body.
Using a standard mouse results in a high level of strain, particularly on the lower arm, and, if placed far from the body, it puts additional pressure on the neck and shoulder region. Using an ergonomic mouse that tilts the lower arm outward reduces strain on the lower arm and reduces wrist pain. The mouse's roller is positioned directly in front of the user and can thus contribute to a more comfortable wrist position.
Another way to reduce mouse use is to use more shortcut keys, but using them is usually tricky.
A separate ergonomic keyboard should be used when working on a laptop for more than two hours a day. The horizontal and vertical distances between the keys should be at least 19 mm. The user must receive clear tactile feedback and/or audible feedback on the keys when typing.
Tactile feedback in the counter-pressure that you feel when you are typing. It is the difference between writing with an old Dell keyboard and using a state of the art gaming keyboard. Audible feedback is the sound you hear when you type. It is the difference between hammering on a typewriter or a new Macbook.
Your profession will determine the keyboard that suits you best. You have to consider how you spend most of your time working. If you are a graphic designer, you probably will use your mouse more often. In that case, a compact keyboard (keyboards without a numeric section)reduces the reaching distance to the mouse and reduces the strain on the shoulder and lower arm. A compact keyboard is a fully functional alternative, and if numerical data has to be entered frequently, a separate numeric section can be used. For those who use touch typing and do more coding, a split keyboard improves the wrists' position and lower arms.
An example of a keyboard that may cause carpal tunnel is the touch feature on a tablet or the keypad that it comes with. It takes much longer to type on a tablet than on a conventional keyboard. A tablet provides neither tactile or auditory feedback while typing. Keyboards with a tension mechanism provide better tactile and auditory feedback than keyboards with a membrane mechanism.
In addition, dark characters printed on light-colored keys provide more contrast than white characters printed on black keys. This results in a higher typing speed among 80% of users.
An ergonomic keyboard is defined by which the keys are placed at varying heights in a gable angle and in which the right and left sections of the keyboard are placed at a slight angle from each other. These devices can contribute to the prevention of physical strain and prevent awkward hand positions.
GroWrk helps companies equip their remote workforce with ease. The starting point of a robust remote work policy is to ensure that an employee can perform his or her work comfortably, healthily, and efficiently wherever he or she works from. People come first in everything that GroWrk does.
To learn more about how GroWrk can help your team work better remotely, learn more here.