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After a long day of work sitting behind a computer, there is nothing better than a long walk to stretch out those legs. While falls and lacerations attract attention regarding workplace injuries, long-term poor posture and computer use frequently lead to just as many disruptive injuries.

Whether you’ve been working at a desk for a week, or decades, the best time to start preventing injuries and focusing on comfort is right now. Our guide to workplace ergonomics will help you assess your working environment and strategically set up your workspace in order to prevent future injuries from popping up.

What Is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the study of people in their working environment. The goal is to reduce and eliminate workplace discomfort and risk of injury by designing workspaces that enhance comfort, safety, efficiency, and overall well-being.

According to the University of North Carolina, there are three ergonomic stressors:

  1. The force required to complete a task
  2. Any awkward or static working postures adopted in completing a task
  3. The repetitiveness of a task

These factors combined put employees at risk for further injury and life–long pain.

Workspaces designed ergonomically help prevent or reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, fatigue, and discomfort associated with prolonged sitting or repetitive movements.

The Science Behind Ergonomics and Its Benefits

Ergonomics draws upon various scientific disciplines, including anatomy, physiology, psychology, and engineering, to understand how humans interact with their environment. 

By applying this knowledge, ergonomists can design workspaces, tools, and processes that align with human capabilities, enhancing performance and well-being.

Ergonomics can optimize physical comfort by ensuring that furniture, equipment, and tools are adjustable and properly aligned to individual users. Also, the ergonomic design improves efficiency by minimizing unnecessary movements and streamlining workflows.

By implementing ergonomic design in your workplace or home office, you reduce the risk of serious injury and improve efficiency by minimizing unnecessary movements.

Assessing Your Workspace

Whether you work from home or in person it’s important to understand and assess how you work. 

Some risk factors to look out for include poor posture, repetitive motions, awkward working positions, inadequate lighting, improper workstation setup, and insufficient rest breaks. If your workspace checks one or more of these boxes, it’s time to start thinking about properly mitigating these issues before they cause further harm.

An ergonomic workstation assessment looks at proper seating posture, correct desk and chair height, adequate lumbar support, appropriate monitor positioning, comfortable keyboard and mouse placement, and sufficient lighting conditions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration designed an easy-to-use ergonomic checklist that provides you with all the necessary questions to ask when assessing your workplace for ergonomic design.

Ergonomic Strategies for a Healthy Workplace

When redesigning your office space to be more ergonomic, you need to think about how you work and how everything fits together. That means choosing the right fitting furniture, ergonomically designed equipment, and implementing proper body mechanics.

Chair and Desk Height

There are specifications to maximize health and safety regarding chair and desk heights. 

When choosing a chair, your thighs and feet should be parallel to the floor (creating a 90-degree angle).

Ensure your elbows and underarms lie straight on the table at a sitting desk.

If you’re unsure about what this looks like or want specific numbers, use Omnicalculator’s Desk Height Calculator.

Mouse, Monitor, and Keyboard

For mouse and keyboards, ensure that they are centered. If they are off to the side, they encourage unneeded twisting of your body. 

Make sure that your keyboard and mouse are as close to you as possible while keeping them at elbow height. Differing heights lead to elbow strain.

You should avoid using a laptop keyboard and trackpad for long periods. They have prioritized designs with mobility, not ergonomics, in mind. For heavy mouse use, consider using an ergonomically-designed mouse instead of a typical computer mouse.

When setting up your monitor, look at the top third of the screen when sitting upright. This monitor setup allows for better posture and less neck strain.

Ergonomic Chairs

The options for ergonomic chairs are nearly endless, with the price spectrum ranging from less than $100 to over $1,000. When choosing a chair, there are a couple of crucial elements for every ergonomic chair.

The first is adjustable seat height. The adjustability allows you to straighten your legs and arms for proper posture.

The chair’s width and depth is another element that affects ergonomics. Experts at The Wall Street Journal suggest you “sit against the backrest and see if you can fit two or three fingers between the front of the seat and back of your knee.” If you can, then it’s considered a perfect fit.

Adjustable armrests are valuable as they allow you to keep your arms at a 90-degree angle to avoid shoulder, arm, or wrist pain. While not the end-all-be-all for an ergonomic desk chair, armrests provide specific solutions to bodily pains.

Good Posture and Body Mechanics

Along with choosing the right equipment, good posture and body mechanics go a long way to protecting your body while working.

Sitting Posture

Sit with your back against the chair’s backrest, ensuring adequate lumbar support. Keep your shoulders relaxed and avoid slouching or hunching forward. Position your feet flat on the floor or footrest, with knees bent at 90-degree angles, to avoid straining your neck.

Standing Posture

When standing, distribute your body weight evenly between both feet. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and avoid locking your knees. Engage your core muscles to maintain stability and an upright posture. Adjust the height of your workstation so that your arms are in a comfortable position to reach the keyboard and mouse.

Neck and Shoulder Injuries

Poor posture and repetitive strain from non-ergonomic workspaces contribute to neck and shoulder injuries. 

Slouching or hunching over a desk and other incorrect postures leads to neck pain, stiffness, and muscle imbalances. You may also experience tension headaches and discomfort. 

Over time, these repetitive and strained positions can contribute to conditions like cervical spondylosis, muscle strains, and pinched nerves. 

Neck and Shoulder Stretch

  1. Tilt your head to the side, bringing your ear toward your shoulder
  2. Hold for a few seconds. 
  3. Repeat on the other side. 
  4. Roll your shoulders in a circular motion, first forward and then backward, to relieve tension.

Wrist Injuries

Using keyboards that lack proper cushioning or have a high profile often leads to discomfort and strain on the wrist. Continuous typing without adequate breaks or using a mouse that requires awkward hand positions can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and repetitive strain injuries.

Additionally, too high or too low desks can force you to bend your wrists at unnatural angles, increasing the risk of injury.

Wrist and Finger Stretch

  1. Extend your arm in front of you, palm facing up, and use your other hand to gently pull back your fingers
  2. Stretch the muscles in your forearm. 
  3. Rotate your wrists clockwise and counterclockwise to increase flexibility.

Back Pain

Sitting for long periods without proper lumbar support strains the lower back leading to discomfort, muscle imbalances, and even spinal disc issues. 

Chairs that do not offer adjustable features or lack sufficient cushioning contribute to poor sitting posture and increased pressure on the spine.

Full Body Stretch

  1. Stand up, interlace your fingers, and stretch your arms overhead
  2. Elongate your spine. 
  3. Take a deep breath and feel the stretch in your upper body. 
  4. Perform gentle side bends and forward folds to release tension in your back and hamstrings.

Experiencing Workstation-Related Pain? Call CORE Orthopedics Today.

CORE Orthopedics team of experienced surgeons and pain management specialists help people suffering from neck, wrist, and back pain across the Chicagoland area. Experience a life free from pain—reach out to CORE Orthopedics now and discover the relief you deserve.

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Elk Grove Village

555 Biesterfield Road Elk Grove Village, Illinois 60007 (847) 690-1776  


Hoffman Estates

2380 Lakewood Blvd. Hoffman Estates, Illinois 60192 (847) 690-1776

Core Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Surgical Affiliations

Physician and Orthopedic Surgeon in Geneva
Geneva Surgical Suites

119 Elizabeth Ln., Genoa City, WI 53128

Phone: 262-295-1213

Alexian Brothers Medical Center

800 Biesterfield Rd.

Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

Phone: 847-437-5500


St. Alexius Medical Center

1555 Barrington Rd.

Hoffman Estates, IL 60169

Phone: 847-843-2000


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Barrington, IL 60010

Phone: 847-381-0123


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