In today's office environment, involving sitting at the computer for long hours, ergonomics has become a necessity, especially in preventing conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), headaches, shoulder pain, neck pain, back pain, and so on, due to badly designed furniture like office chairs, and computer accessories like keyboards and mice.
The expressions 'office ergonomics' and 'computer ergonomics' are usually used interchangeably, and they generally refer to ergonomic office chairs, keyboards, keyboard trays, mice, desks, stools, and so on. Hence, this has made the term 'ergonomics' an integral part of office nomenclature.
Obviously, since people have to sit on the office chair every day, for most of the day, it has to not only be comfortable, but also ergonomically designed. Such chairs help to protect your lower back by providing support to the lumbar region. Plus, they are designed in such a way as to allow you to place your feet solidly on the floor while you sit on it.
The seat usually has a depth of about 17-20 inches, with a slight downward slope, the front edge rounded, and the ability to tilt 3 degrees forward or 4 degrees backwards. The lumbar support in the backrest is usually adjustable to 5-10 inches from the seat, retaining the spine's natural 'S' curve.
While seated fully back in an ergonomic chair, the lumbar region should make contact with the backrest, with the feet resting flat on the floor. The ideal sitting posture is upright, the hips positioned at a 90 degree angle, and the arms being able to hang naturally at the sides.
Armrests are generally optional and adjustable. If they impede close access to the desk, the armrests should be removed. While sitting on the chair, the hands should be in the same line as the forearms, so that the wrists are straight when the fingers are on the keyboard's front row.
Executive chairs are usually designed with upholstered armrests and backrests. They usually also have a comparatively higher backrest.
When the keyboard and mouse are used for long stretches, especially with the hands placed at an awkward posture, i.e., bent to the side, down, or up, it can lead to musculoskeletal disorders that are painful, like carpal tunnel syndrome, tenosynovitis, and tendonitis. Hence, nowadays these devices are available in various ergonomic designs.
The following are some of the features that an ergonomic mouse should have:
- The shape and size of the mouse should fit comfortably in the hand.
- You should have the ability to hold the mouse in a neutral position, i.e., your hand should not be bent at any awkward position.
- The mouse should be placed in such a way so that it can be used with your upper arm comfortably relaxed, and as near your body as possible, and without you having to reach towards the side or forwards for it.
To enable this, the numeric pad is separate in some computer keyboards, thus allowing the mouse to be located nearer the keyboard. Some keyboards also have features like a touchpad, touchpoint, or trackball, which reduces the need for using the mouse as frequently.