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Ideal Office Work Station

In the last article, What is an Ergonomic chair?, we looked at the specifications that constitute a good or ergonomic chair. In this article, we will discuss about features of an ideal work station and how these ergonomic chairs play a role in our work station to help minimize strain on the musculoskeletal system.

Work Station

Key FeaturesNotes
Height of work table
  • Should ideally be adjustable, at elbow level, to allow user to sit comfortably on the chair.
  • Adequate legroom for the user to sit as close to the table as possible.
  • In view of this, work tables with keyboard trays are generally not recommended.
Work station surface
  • Should not be reflective. Not advisable to put a glass panel over the desk as it causes reflection and hence, glare.
  • Should also be large enough to allow for flexible arrangement of stationery and equipment without causing clutter.
  • Work stations should not be placed near a source of glare. For example, having a window without blinds next to your work station will cause too much glare. This will be made even worse if you are seated next to a mirror or glass panel.
  • Lighting used should be a combination of warm and white light. Naked fluorecent tubes will cause too much glare and should be covered.
  • Ideally, the work station should be position between 2 light sources on either side of the table.


Ergonomic Chair

Having discussed the key features of an ideal work station, let us now look at how to optimally use the ergonomic chair in our work station.

Ergonomic chairs are designed to fit almost the shortest female to almost the tallest male in the targeted demographic group. Below are some tips on using the ergonomic chair:

Back RestThe user should be able to sit against the back rest with comfort and still have about 2’’ between the edge of the seat to the back of the knees. If this is not possible, adjust the seat depth accordingly.
Height of chairShould be such that when the user’s back is supported, the feet are flat on the ground and the height of the table should be at elbow level. If the table is not adjustable, it is important to have the table at elbow height. If this means that the feet are no longer supported on the ground, a foot stool is then required.
Tilt angle of the chairTraditionally, most people have been advised to seat at 90’, i.e. with the back upright. Current research show that if the back is tilted at 100? to 130?, the muscle activation in the lower back as well as disc loading falls dramatically. However, the lower the tilt, the more neck and shoulder flexion would be required to do the same work. So, we create a new problem by solving one. What then is the solution? If the user has primarily a back problem, then perhaps, the chair should be tilted at 100?. If the user has primarily a neck problem, then the chair should perhaps be angled at 90? to minimize shoulder and neck strain.
Arm restsShould be adjusted downwards or inwards, so that the chair can be pulled in as close to the table as possible to allow the forearm to rest on the table.


Monitor and Keyboard

The placement of monitor and keyboard is also important. Poor positioning of the monitor can result in neck pains, headache and myopia. The screen should be about 30cm away from the user’s eyes and the first line of the computer screen should be at eye level. Therefore, laptops should be raised so that excessive neck flexion can be avoided.

Keyboards should be placed on the table at a 90° elbow bend, with shoulders dropped and completely relaxed. As for laptops, an external keyboard is advisable. The mouse should be placed close to the body to prevent having the shoulder and arm stretched out.

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