An ergonomic workspace not only improves your comfort, it also has substantial benefits for your health. Whether you’re sat at a desk in an office, or behind a microscope in a lab, it is essential that you make sure your workspace is ergonomically designed to suit you.
A substantial part of ergonomics is down to personal preference, and there is no hard and fast rule to follow that will work for everyone, but there are basic considerations that will have a huge impact on any workspace.
Choose the correct chair
Working in one place for hours on end can have a real negative impact on your body and it is important to take regular breaks to walk and stretch. However, carefully selecting your seating can be hugely beneficial to your long term comfort.
The height of your seat should be adjustable to ensure that you can always be in the optimum position for the job you are doing. If you are sat at a computer, completing paperwork or pipetting, you should ensure that your thighs and legs are rested at a 90 degree angle and your feet are flat on the floor. However if this is not a position you can achieve comfortably in relation to the height of your desk, you should then invest in a footstool to ensure your legs and feet are always at the right angle.
If you are using a microscope where your head will be angled down, you may need to adjust your chair from your usual seating position. You should raise or lower your chair to ensure that you still keep a straight back when using the microscope and do not hunch your shoulders, only your head should tilt down. Having an adjustable footrest, enables you to easily alter your seating position in relation to the task you are doing.
The design and adjustability of the backrest of your chair should compliment the natural “S” shape of your back, to provide optimum lumbar support. The curved section of the chair should always rest in line with the bottom of your ribcage. In order to achieve this, it is important that you select a chair that has a height adjustable backrest, to ensure that it curves in the correct place for your body. Your backrest should also be able to tilt forward and backwards to ensure that you can stretch your back throughout the day.
The depth of your seat is crucial when it comes to ensuring that your back is in the correct position. You should be able to sit with your back against the backrest of the chair, whilst maintaining a gap around the size of your fist between the back of your knees and the chair.
Your seat should be adequately padded to maximise comfort for long periods of sitting. It is also vital that you choose a chair that is breathable as this prevents you from overheating. Mesh backed chairs are a popular solution to this problem as they allow the air to circulate behind your back. Although leather chairs have a luxurious appearance, they aren’t always the appropriate solution for long periods of sitting.
It is also important to consider how easy it is to clean the chair. Wipeable surfaces are always a good idea in a lab environment, and it is easy to forget about the importance of the material of your chair.
Select the right accessories
Many people make the mistake of thinking that just having an ergonomically designed chair will be the solution to all of their work comfort problems. However we are all different proportions so it is often necessary to bolster your comfort with a few basic accessories.
In order to ensure that you are always sat in the correct position, and that your back is properly supported, a footrest is a valuable addition to any lab or office. If you have to adjust the height of your chair for different tasks, such as using a microscope, it is important that you remember to adjust the support for your feet.
There are a wide variety of footrests on the market, from basic footstools, to angled footrests and height adjustable stools. Different solutions are better suited to different people, however if you find yourself adjusting the height of your chair on a regular basis, then it is important that you choose a footrest that provides the appropriate support for every working position.
If you find that your job involves a lot of typing or computer work, the angle of your wrists can cause a huge strain on your shoulders. Your elbows should rest at 90 degrees and your wrists should be flat when typing. Your wrists should always remain in a neutral position when typing, meaning that they should not be tilted at an angle from your forearm. Some people benefit from the addition of a wrist rest to help them maintain a neutral typing position.