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Office Ergonomics Guidelines

Office Ergonomics Guidelines (July 14, 2010)

Office Ergonomics Guidelines

The dictionary definition of ergonomics is - The applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort.
The above translates into a very simple fact. If you are not comfortable you cannot work to your full potential. Not only that but you also run the risk of permanently injuring yourself. Ergonomics is the very last thing on most entrepreneurs minds but no good home office should be set up without some small consideration towards computer ergonomics and ergonomics of your workplace in general.
Creating a home working space with basic ergonomics in mind means you in half the battle. An ergonomically sound chair and desk brings you 75% of the way to having a pain free and problem free home office.
This section of the site is dedicated to demonstrating how your office equipment from your keyboard to your monitor can be used without causing discomfort.

There are several key areas you need to pay special attention to:
Monitor height
Neck strain caused by incorrect monitor height adjustment is something we all need to avoid. Far too often computer users develop neck pain from having their VDU (visual display unit) sitting too high up or too low down on their desk.
Adjusting your VDU height is a straightforward process. Sit yourself comfortably in front of your computer and look straight ahead towards your screen. Adjust your monitor height until the top of the screen (not the monitor case) is level with your eye.

Distance from monitor
Humans are curious creatures. It's in our nature to want to closely examine something that we find interesting. This is not advisable when using computer screens. A safe distance needs to be maintained between you and your computer screen to avoid damaging your eyesight.
The minimum distance, for prolonged use, between you and your computer screen should be measured by the length of your arm. Sitting in front of your computer raise your arm directly in front of you. Your fingers should be just touching your computer screen. If not adjust your distance until this is so.

The offices of the near future will all need to feature desks that are not just ergonomically sound but are also fully height and tilt adjustable. Currently very few businesses operate under this policy simply because of the cost involved.
For the home office simply make sure that your desk allows movement of your legs whilst sitting at the desk itself. You don't need to have a huge range of movement - just enough to stop cramps and stiffness. A good measure of how much spare you have is to cross your legs and sit at the desk. If you're still comfortable you have plenty of leg room. If not then the desk may be too low to the ground and needs to be adjusted or changed completely.
The chair in a home based business is as important as any other part of the business or business furniture. Your home office will revolve around your chair - literally. You can expect to be spending a lot of time in your office chair so don't cut corners here of all places. A rapid route to extreme back problems is to use a cheap or substandard office chair.
An ergonomically sound office chair should have the following features:
Tilt and swivel base
Adjustable backrest
Adjustable armrests

When sitting in the chair you need to be at 45 degrees to other elements in your work area.

Not only should the chair allow you to sit at 45 degrees to every other workspace element you also need adequate clearance between the back of your legs and the front of the seat. You should be able to fit approximately 3 of your fingers between the rear of your knee and the front of the seat. If this gap is not present you're going to have the base of the chair seat continually digging into the back of your legs. This will be uncomfortable to say the least.

Any work area needs to feature sufficient lighting. Natural light is the ideal type of light for working in but this doesn't always mix well with computer screens. The lighting in your work area should not be so strong as to cause discomfort to your eyesight. Equally the lighting should not be so weak as to force you to sit closer to your monitor to counter the low level of light in the room.

Excessive noise in the workplace can be detrimental for two reasons. Firstly the noise can be distracting and take your focus off what you're doing. Secondly excessive noise in the workplace can lead to long term hearing problems - although this is true more so in an industrial workplace more so than a home office.
Noise in the home office is going to come from your computer. Computers use fans to keep themselves cool and sometimes these fans can generate so much noise that it is genuinely distracting. Again your own comfort level here is the main issue. If you're not bothered by the noise coming from your computer then that's ok. If you find the noise coming from your PC is either annoying or distracting to you then it is important to take appropriate steps to reduce this noise.

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