Ergonomic Product Use: Tips to Set Up Better Workstations

Proper ergonomic product use is what keeps your employees free of injuries and working well. Here's how to set up workstations for your team.

Wellness, company culture, ergonomics

Whether your team works primarily in your organization's office or from a home office, ergonomic furniture can help you stay comfortable and productive, and can also help decrease absenteeism related to injuries like carpal tunnel or muscle strain. But it's not enough to buy a product marketed as "ergonomic" — you have to know how to use it.

Proper ergonomic product use supports your comfort and productivity. Here are some best practices.

Keyboards

For proper keyboard usage, the user should be able to place their wrists in a straight, neutral position. They should only use wrist or palm supports when their hands are in a resting position, not while typing. The mouse should be at the same level as the keyboard and the user's fingers should be able to comfortably grasp it without pinching or spreading the fingers to adjust to a too-small or too-big mouse.

Monitor Setups

Place monitors directly behind the keyboard, about an arm's length away from the user's body, with the user's fingertips just able to touch the screen. Instruct your employees to position computer monitors at or just slightly lower than eye level. Since ergonomic product use is highly dependent on the individual user, consider vision issues when adjusting the screens.

The setup of dual monitors depends on how your employees are using them. If one monitor is used the majority of the time, place it directly in front of the user, with the other monitor to its side. If two monitors are used with the same frequency, you should place them close together in the middle of the desk, with the keyboard centered in front of the two monitors. That way, the employee won't be drastically shifitng from a neutral position to use each monitor.

Seating

Any seat should allow the body to be in neutral posture and include adjustment options for each user. Invest in chairs with five-star bases — in other words, the base of the chair, under the cushion, should look like a wheel with five spokes radiating out. That base helps provide stability and lumbar support, which will ease stress on the lower back. When seated, the employees' knees should be parallel to their hips. If the user's feet cannot touch the floor, you should provide them with a footrest.

Desk Setup

Desks need to be large enough to accommodate the important items your employees use during the day, such as a monitor, mouse, keyboard and phone, but not so big that these tools can't be found quickly or require extreme stretches to reach. Improper usage of desk items can lead to upper body, neck and arm muscle strains or conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Standing Desks

Standing desks may help reduce physical discomfort and boost mood and productivity.

However, if set up or used incorrectly, they can put increased pressure on major joints, particularly the hips and knees. Incorrect height may also increase the risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.

An adjustable standing desk (or a simple laptop platform) allows the employee to switch between a sitting and standing position. Both feet should be planted loosely on the floor so as not to put too much pressure on one side of the body.

Supplying your office with ergonomic furniture is just the start — your workplace needs to develop good ergonomic product use as well. Make sure your own workstation is designed correctly, and then offer to help your staff members achieve the optimal setup.

This video from the Wall Street Journal emphasizes the importance of setting up your workspace to avoid pain later in life.