Ergonomics isn’t about perfect posture

Steve Adams, Senior Web Designer @ Ergotron notAboutPerfectPostureTry searching the web for “computer ergonomics” and you’ll find plenty of handy charts and tips:

Notice a common theme? Each page focuses on maintaining proper posture. You’ll find the correct arrangement for an entire workstation, from the angle of a monitor screen to the configuration of a chair. Good information to be sure.

But what happens when you dutifully follow those guidelines? Do you find ergonomic bliss? Do you experience computing so comfortable that you do it just to get an endorphin rush?

Of course the answer is “No”—because comfortable computing is much more than good posture.

Sitting in the same position all day, day after day, is a recipe for injury. As reported at Canada.com, “Sitting too long is the most common mistake employees are making.” In fact, even if a monitor and keyboard are at the ideal height and you have an ergonomic chair, the effect of so-called “static loading” will take its toll as muscles begin to atrophy. This is because, as a physiologist would describe, “The musculoskeletal system is unsuited for prolonged static work because the body cannot supply fresh nutrients to the stressed tissues.”

Indeed, the sad reality is as Peter Gibbs observed to Michael Bolton in the movie Office Space: “Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day!”

So how does one find computing comfort?

Naturally, first set up your workstation according to the posture guidelines. But that is just the starting point.

The next step is to create a workspace and routine that accommodates movements your body wants to make throughout the day:

  1. Use adjustable monitor arms and keyboard trays to reposition your screen and any input device to where you are moving. Set up your chair properly and know how to use its adjustment features.
  2. Better yet, periodically stand while working whenever you feel like it. Create a sit/stand workstation.
  3. Take rest breaks: make excuses for quick walks—to the water cooler or wherever.

Once upon a time I pretended to be a mannequin for the sake of ergonomics and my body rebelled with shouts of pain and stiffness. But now I move—sometimes I stand, other times I sit, and there are all sorts of twists and turns continually happening in my cube. Heck, I even slouch now and then! And happily, all is well.

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