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Why Ergonomically Enhance Your Space?

According to a recent Staples survey, office workers across the country are asking for more ergonomically enhanced work stations, citing that better office accommodations would decrease their stress levels while upping their productivity.

And with 86% of survey respondents complaining that they aren’t comfortable in their current workspace, there is no better time to think about why and how you should enhance your own workstation.

Why Enhance Your Workstation

Whether you are involved in the private sector or public education and healthcare, you can benefit from ergonomically enhancing your workspace. And by communicating your needs to management and administration, your entire organization stands to gain great benefits in the way of increased worker productivity, safer work environments and more efficient task flow.

Neglecting the ergonomic needs of your workplace does not just put you at risk of job injury or dissatisfaction. It also costs your company in significant ways. Consider the following statistics to understand just how important it is to ergonomically enhance your work station:

  • According to the US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, repetitive stress injuries—commonly associated with computer and office work—are the nation’s most common and costly occupational health problem, affecting thousands of American workers and costing more than $20 billion a year in worker’s compensation.
  • Approximately 260,000 carpal tunnel release operations are performed each year, with 47% of the cases considered to be work related, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
  • The costs to businesses that employ workers at high risk to develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are staggering. The National Council of Compensation Insurance estimates that repetitive stress injuries cost employers over $80 billion yearly. The average compensation of a CTS victim is $33,000.00.

4 Ways to Enhance Your Workspace

While the study of ergonomics is extensive, and there are numerous ways to ergonomically enhance your workspace, the following list offers some basic, crucial points for consideration.

1. Enhance Your Laptop

While laptops offer ease and convenience for telecommuting, you put your neck and back at risk if you use a laptop as your full time machine.  According to ergonomic expert David Rempel, M.D., MPh and professor of Medicine at the University of California:

“Using a laptop for more than four hours per day presents an important ergonomic problem. The top of a computer screen should generally be near eye level to avoid neck pain from bending the head forward to see the screen.”

The most optimal way to improve your consistent laptop use is to invest in furniture that effectively docks your machine in a useful and comfortable way. You should consider using laptop security desks, adjustable laptop tables, wall mounts or computer carts for such needs.

For institutions that provide workspaces for others, such as schools or conference centers, because most occasional occupants of your space will be working with laptops, you should provide for their comfort by considering these school furniture products as well.

2. Make Sure You Have Good Back Support

A high quality office chair will have a built-in lumbar support and adjustable options. According to ergonomic experts, “The best seated posture is not an erect 90 degrees, but rather a reclined posture of 100 to110 degrees. Keep your feet flat on the floor or resting on a footrest if needed, and avoid craning your neck or hunching your shoulders.

3. Increase Your Font Size

While it is true that equipment plays a major role in your level of comfort, you can ease your neck and eye strain with something as simple as moving from 12 point to 14 point font. According to David Rempel, “A primary reason for people assuming poor posture is that the text is too small so they have to lean forward to read.”

4. Take A Load Off Your Legs

A final way to enhance the ergonomics of your workspace is to make sure that you have enough space under your workstation for placement of your thighs. Having appropriate thigh clearance is important for good blood flow to the feet and legs. Using a footrest also helps maintain comfort and good blood supply.

These ideas give you some solutions in how to improve your workstation and gain more comfort, safety and productivity.

The Two Minute Stretch Program

Applying The Ergonomic Equation to your home or workplace computing is a crucial part of maintaining comfortable, safe and efficient workflow. And making sure you utilize proper rest and restorative periods is central to ergonomics principles.

Of course, simply knowing that you should periodically take a break to stretch and move your muscles is a different matter than knowing how to specifically stretch and move your muscles. Without working to learn some basic and effective stretches to use in your ergonomic work routine, you will likely just find yourself wandering aimlessly around your workspace.

Instead, the following two minute stretch program offers you specific and direct instructions in ways to rest your muscles and avoid fatigue and repetitive stress injuries. The best part? These stretches are designed to fit into any spare minutes as you ride the elevator, walk to your parking lot, talk on the phone etc.

Stretch #1 – Eye Exercise

One of the most common conditions resultant in working at a computer for a continuous time is eye strain. Luckily, eye strain can easily be relieved. One way to relax your eye muscles  if to focus on items at different distances. To completely stretch your eye lens use the following pattern:

  • Focus near, then far, near, then far
  • Repeat a couple of times
  • Take a couple of long blinks in between each stretch set

Stretch #2 – Side to Side Neck Stretch

Release the tension in your neck, head and shoulders with this movement designed to loosen your neck and shoulder muscles. Doing this with your eyes closed also further helps to relax your eye muscles momentarily.

  • Lay your head to the side, pivoting at the base of the neck
  • Hold it for a few seconds, then lay it to the other side
  • Repeat a couple of times

Stretch #3 – Front to Back Neck Stretch

Moving on from stretch #2 you can continue to stretch your neck with a front to back stretch to further release the tension that gathers in your head, neck, back hips and shoulders while computing.

  •  Pivot your head back and hold for a few seconds
  • Move your head forward, placing your chin on your chest
  • Repeat a couple of times

Stretch #4 – Standing Toe Touch

To stretch your back you can simply:

  • Bend forward at the waist and let your arms hang toward the floor
  • Roll your back and your shoulders
  • Do not lock your knees

If you legs stretch too much while doing these movements, bend at the knees. You should not feel this stretch in your legs, but in your back. If you need more of a stretch you can touch your toes or place the palms of your hands on the floor.

Stretch #5 – Reverse Back Stretch

You can continue to stretch your back with this reverse back stretch.  This movement opens your chest cavity and hips, elongating the spine along its natural “S” curve.

  • Place your palms on the back of your pelvis and lean back from the waist
  • Drop your head back
  • Hold for a few seconds

Stretch #6 – Trunk Twist

To stretch the muscles in your core and loosen your spine you can stand and do the following:

  • Isolate your trunk and twist at the hips
  • Take one arm and reach across your chest, twist in that direction
  • Drop your other hand and use it to reach behind your back
  • Twist to the other side while switching arm positions
  • Repeat a few times

Stretch #7 – Upper Torso and Arm Stretch

This easy motion is an essential upper body stretch for relieving repetitive stress impact on your muscles. Stretch your upper torso, back, shoulders and arms by really working your muscles to loosen the area between your shoulder blades.

  • Hold your arms at a 90-degree angle with your hands, elbows and shoulders at the same height
  • Make fists with your hands
  • Pull your arms back, squeezing your should blades together and tightening your fists
  • Push your hands forward until your arms are straight out in front of you
  • Roll your shoulders forward and stretch out your upper back
  • Open your hands with your wrists flexing up and spreading your fingers as you push forward
  • Repeat a couple of times

 Stretch #8 – Shoulder Stretch

Though it may seem like you have already stretched your shoulders several times in this two minute program, much of the body’s stress is localized in this area, and you must be sure you stretch them enough. These slightly different movements help you to continue stretching these crucial muscles in a variety of ways. This particular stretch works the back side of the shoulder from the shoulder blade around to the upper arm.

  • Reach your arm across your chest with your upper arm close to your collar bone
  • Take your other hand and grab the crossed arm’s elbow
  • Pull your arm closer to your body and stretch your shoulder
  • Now to the other shoulder
  • Repeat a couple of times

Stretch #9 – Arm and Wrist Stretch

This single, easy motion will loosen most of the muscles along the length of your arm and provide further stretch for your wrist and shoulder.

  • Place the palms of your hands flat together in front of your chest
  • Flex the wrists at a 90-degree angle
  • Keeping the palms together, move them up until your elbows touch
  • Return your hands to their original position
  • Repeat a couple of times

Stretch #10 – Ankle Stretch

When sitting at a desk for an extended period of time, your blood begins to flow through your lower body more slowly. This can put you at risk for poor circulation, and even a blood clot. It is important to take break periods while computing to get the blood flowing in your lower body.

  • Lift your knee up high as you can, and flex your ankle back as far as you can
  • Extend your leg forward pivoting at the knee, flex the ankle forward as far as possible
  • Repeat a couple of times
  • Adding some side-to-side motion while extending your leg forward will also help to loosen your hip

While you are at work it is important you take care of your daily tasks and your workload. But it is also important that you take care of your body. Using quality office furniture and being mindful of the way you work will not only help you avoid muscle fatigue and injury, it will also help you experience greater productivity and satisfaction in your tasks as well.

The Rule of Three – An Ergonomic System

One of the key components to an ergonomics system is organization. If you are not organized you can quickly lose all sense of efficiency and productivity. When considering how to organize your workspace with ergonomics in mind, you not only need to know where things are, but you also need to know how often you use all of your various items. Such knowledge allows you to think about how to lay your things out efficiently.

The more often you need something, the more accessible you need it to be. The goal of improving the organization of your work station is to save time and effort in completing your tasks. This is where the rule of three comes in.

The Rule Of Three

The rule of three is a measure used to evaluate the ergonomic needs of your work station. To apply it you follow these simple steps:

First, consider the various items in your workspace that require organization. Divide these items into three categories based on the frequency of use. Divide them by “frequent,” “intermittent” or “occasional” use.

The best way to determine which of the three categories each item might fit into is to ask yourself in you have used a particular item in the last three days, the last three weeks or the last three months.

Frequent Use

If an item has been used in the last three days it should be placed in the “frequent” category. These items should be placed in the most localized spaces in your workstation. You want to be able to immediately access them. 

Intermittent Use

If you have used an item within the last three weeks it should be placed in the intermittent category. These items should be stored in an intermittent space, meaning that it is all right to move an item to two in order to access an item from this category. If you have to reach a little further, or a pause another task in order to retrieve an intermittent item that is all right.

Occasional Use

If you have only used an item in the past three months, then you should consider putting these occasional use items into long term storage. Moving things into a space you occasionally access is actually better for your workflow than keeping such items within easy reach. Keeping everything nearby makes your workspace cramped and you are more likely to spend unnecessary time searching for items as you become more and more frustrated.

One Final Tip

If you are not sure how to begin categorizing your items and cannot articulate how often you use your various tools, you can simply dump everything into a box and then pull items out as you need them. This three month exploration works in the following way:

Move all the boxed items away from your workspace, into your long term storage location. If you use an item within three weeks of doing this, then you should place that item in an intermittent spot in your workspace. If you use an item from the box within three days, then you should place the item in a prime, frequent use location.

Task Analysis: A Basic Ergonomic Principle

When working to make anything ergonomically sound, task analysis is a concept that you cannot afford to overlook. To accomplish effective task analysis it is important to understand three things: body mechanics, the tool you are interacting with, and the task being performed. Performing a successful task analysis allows you to effectively understand and plan for these three areas.

Task analysis can be extremely detailed and more academic in nature – requiring thoughtful study and descriptive flow chart creation. It can also be performed on a more informal, less stringent basis—facilitating quick efforts to make your workflow more effective and efficient. UsabilityNet.org explains:

“The reader should be aware that task analysis can be a very time consuming activity if used with a high degree of detail on complex problems…”

Such a level of analysis is very worthwhile for institutional-wide policies and procedures, or for especially complicated tasks. Because this principle can save an organization or a user significant time and effort on certain activities, the investment in professional analysis might be worth the return in productivity and lower overhead.

For more informal purposes – the following principle can be applied in a more simplified nature.

Begin By Breaking Things Down

The first step in task analysis is to break things down into their most basic steps. This helps you to identify two key elements. You will be able to articulate what specific human-machine interfaces are present. You can also identify each action required for each step of a process.

The Human Machine Interface

The human-machine interface is a term that refers to how many parts of your physical being will interact with the physical product or setup. For example, when your fingertips come into contact with your keyboard that is human-machine interfacing. In office, school, medical and home settings there are extensive and various human-machine interactions that happen with each and every task you complete.

Steps and Actions

Steps and the actions needed to accomplish those steps are identified in an effective task analysis. By carefully considering each step needed to complete any given process you can identify which step actions will require the most effort and/or time.

This helps you to prioritize your time and activities. It also helps you establish a more efficient sense of organization.

An Example In Action

It is easier to completely understand this concept by considering it in terms of a concrete example. For our purposes, we will use the example of accessing an external hard drive via a personal computer that is already turned on and running.

A simple task analysis would appear in the following way:


  • Plug in and power up the external hard drive


  • Retrieve the external hard drive from storage
  • Retrieve the connecting cable from storage
  • Uncoil the cable.
  • Correctly orient the cable.
  • Plug the cable into the hard drive.
  • Place the hard drive on your desk in a secure location.
  • Orient the remaining cable end to the PC port.
  • Plug in the cable to the PC.
  • The computer will run a recognition process & automatically install needed drivers.
  • The hard drive will now be available in your computer menu.

Human-Machine Interfaces Present

  • Personal Computer Tower
  • External Hard Drive
  • Connecting Cable
  • Personal Computer Monitor
  • Personal Computer Mouse


  • Retrieve the external hard drive from storage: use hands and arms to gather and lift the external hard drive. Use back muscles to bend or reach to the storage location.
  • Retrieve the connecting cable from storage: use hands and arms to gather and lift the external hard drive. Use back muscles to bend or reach to the storage location.
  • Uncoil the cable: use hands and arms to unwind the connecting cable.
  • Correctly orient the cable: use hands and arms to correctly position cable.
  • Plug the cable into the hard drive: Use hands and arms to connect the cable.
  • Place the hard drive on your desk in a secure location: use the hands and arms to move the hard drive.
  • Orient the remaining cable end to the PC port: use hands and arms to correctly position the cable.
  • Plug in the cable to the PC: use the hands and arms to insert cable.
  • The computer will run a recognition process & automatically install needed drivers: use the eyes to watch the computer display for confirmation of process and installation.
  • The hard drive will now be available in your computer menu: use the hands and arms to direct the mouse to direct the cursor on the computer screen to access files.

Ergonomics is all about making things as comfortable and efficient as possible. In selecting your office furniture, for example, you should choose pieces designed with ergonomic principles in mind, as they will likely have ample desk space, adjustable features and optional components that will best enable you do your work as efficiently as possible.

How To Form A Good Habit for Your Work Ergonomics

Because many offices, school classrooms and medical processing centers now revolve around computers, the United States workforce has experienced a rather unhealthy shift in the evolution of our work habits. The simple fact of the matter is that we have become adapted to sitting for long and extensive periods of time when working behind a desk.

This work habit presents serious health and lifestyle concerns, and is one of the leading variables spurring the Ergonomics and Sit-and-Stand movements waving through workspaces across the country.

However, at the heart of the quest to find a new way to work is a fundamental principle. Every type of action we take comes down to a matter of habit. If we want to work in healthier, safer and more efficient ways then we must push ourselves to establish healthier, safer and more efficient habits.

What is a Habit?

When you learn any new skill or process your brain makes physical connections that create pathways for specific neurological activity associated with that skill or process. When you continually perform these same actions, this physical pattern of behavior is even more deeply ingrained. Quite often, your response to physical stimuli will become so automatic that you will not even be aware of the choice you are making. For instance, merely sitting down to work at a computer might communicate in your brain that you should remain in front of this workstation until your task is complete or your work shift is up. This is a habit.

Knowing What You Want to Make a Habit

Understanding exactly what you are trying to achieve through an altered set of actions is the first step to forming a new habit. Before beginning to implement a new ergonomic equation into your work routine or implementing a Sit and Stand regime in your workflow, you should take some time to research the concepts at the heart of these movements, gaining a deeper understanding of what you might want to accomplish.

Our VersaTables Learning Center provides numerous articles for your consideration on these topics. Many of these resources can explain specifically how to relate these concepts in your home office use, in medical institutions, educational organizations, private developments and public business firms. Further, you can visit our WhitePapers to discover documents that are useful for distribution to your colleagues, employees, students, friends and family.

Know the Proper Way to Perform the Activity

Taking the time to learn proper Ergonomic techniques and/or Sit and Stand techniques ensures that as you work to form a new, better work habit you will be doing so effectively. It is counterproductive to form a new habit based on bad technique.

Provide Incentives

You want to form a new work habit because it is potentially rewarding in providing enhanced comfort, efficiency, productivity and safety. However, before gaining the intrinsic rewards of your new, good habit it can help to provide yourself with smaller rewards that inspire you to work on gaining your new skills.

Treat yourself to your favorite lunch spot, or a luxury coffee after you successfully adopt your own ergonomics equation for three days, and then again after you consistently practice ergonomic principles for a week.

Of course, you should also continually remind yourself that you are working towards feeling, living and working better.

Schedule the Habit Forming Process

Experts recommend two to four weeks to successfully form a habit. The initial two weeks should establish the habit, and the following two weeks provide reinforcement strength.

Of course, to ensure something becomes and remains a good, strong habit requires regular attention be devoted to maintaining your skills and goals. Make it a point to frequently review Ergonomics news and advancements.

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