Ergonomics Program

Ergonomics is the study of people's interactions with their surroundings. Using an improper workstation setup for long periods of time can increase the risk of ergonomic related pains and injuries. The purpose of the University’s Ergonomics Program is to maintain employee health and comfort by adjusting each workstation to fit the user, both at work and at home.

Remote Workstation Ergonomics

As University employees accustomed to the office and classroom environment, transitioning to working remotely has presented the challenge of redefining our workspaces. As comfortable as working on the couch sounds, using an improper workstation setup for a long period of time can increase the risk of ergonomic related pains and injuries. You can adjust your own workstation to fit your body using the following tips and principles. If you continue to feel discomfort after making these adjustments, please contact the Department of Environmental Health & Safety for assistance at ehs@sandiego.edu.

Workstation Set-Up Tips

  • Workspace: Identify a space on a desk or table to dedicate to computer use; don’t work while sitting on a bed or couch for long periods of time.
    • Your desktop should be at same height as your elbows to prevent wrists resting on the table edge.
  • Monitor: Use an external monitor or place laptop on a stand or books.
    • The top of your monitor should be at eye level.
    • Position the monitor perpendicular to windows to prevent backlighting or glare on the screen.
  • Keyboard and Mouse: Use an external keyboard and mouse to allow your laptop to be raised to eye level; wireless keyboards and mice can be purchased online.
    • Avoid reaching for your keyboard and mouse. Keep them close with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and wrists straight.
    • Use your whole arm and shoulder to move your mouse instead of bending your wrist.
    • Rest your hand on your mouse instead of pinching or squeezing.
  • Chair: Use a chair with low back support and a seat cushion. Your feet should rest on the floor, a footrest, or a stack of books to keep your knees bent at 90 degrees.
    • To create lumbar support, put a rolled towel or pillow behind the small of your back.
    • To raise your elbows to the same level as your desktop, sit on pillows.
  • Standing Desk: Use risers to raise the tabletop level to elbow height while standing.
    • Use a riser or box to raise the top of your monitor to eye height while standing.
    • Use an anti-fatigue mat and shift your weight often to reduce strain on your feet. 
    • Alternate between standing, sitting, and breaks.
  • Phone: Use the Speakerphone and voice activation for cell phone testing; don’t brace the handset or cell phone between your neck and shoulder.
    • If using your phone frequently, keep it nearby to prevent overreaching. 
  • Breaks: At least every half hour stand up, move around, or stretch for five minutes. Drink water.

Additional Remote Workstation Resources:

Basic Ergonomic Principles

Proper Work Area Organization

Ensure enough table space for all work equipment and supplies. Keep items that are used often in the primary work zone (the area when elbows are at the sides and the hands are moved side to side). Keep items that are used less often in the secondary work zone (area within the outstretched arms).

image of primary work zone within near reach, secondary work zone within stretched arm reach.

Maintaining Neutral Posture

A neutral posture should include holding the neck straight, shoulders straight down loosely at the sides, elbows at a 90-100 degree angle, and wrists straight at table level. While seated, the low back is supported on the back rest of the chair, hips are bent 90 degrees, knees are bent 90 degrees, and feet flat on the floor or on a footrest. 

Additional Neutral Posture Resource: 

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/positions.html

Avoiding Wrist Deviations

Deviating (bending) your wrists while typing or mousing for long periods can put strain on your tendons. Keeping your wrists in a neutral position can minimize these strains. Look at the positioning of your wrists and hands while typing, then adjust your work station to fit your wrists:

  • If wrists bend upwards, flatten them out with a wrist rest.
  • If wrists bend downwards, adjust desktop or chair height so elbows are even with keyboard.
  • If wrists bend inward or outward, your keyboard may be the wrong size.
A person seated in the perfect workstation setup with correct angles described by neutral posture section. The Ideal Seated Workstation

 

 

This image pictures a person standing at a properly leveled standing workstation with his elbows bent at 90 degrees. The Ideal Standing Workstation