Ergonomics and Office Design
Updated: Jun 17, 2019
I have recently partnered with an ergonomic specialist to provide a fully integrated approach to designing home office spaces. We will look at specifics such as monitor placement and height, equipment placement and reach, appropriate desk heights, and suggest the best chair types and features. All these recommendations will be factored into the design plan to ensure the end result is not only beautiful, but fully functional and customized to the specific needs of the client!
Please contact me if you would like to learn more about the ergonomic consultation process!
Below are some FAQ’s and additional ergonomic resources that you may find helpful:
Why are ergonomics vital when designing a workspace?
Ergonomics focuses on optimizing various aspects of work (space, furniture, methods/techniques) to ‘fit’ the person at work. Those that seek ergonomics interventions are often mindful of the prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs); which in the office setting, typically occurs gradually, cumulatively, over a long period of time. An under-appreciated opportunity is the operational advantage that results in ergonomic improvements of a workspace and tasks. These advantages may present in physical aspects (i.e. reducing reach distances) but can also appear in reducing cognitive/mental workloads too. The ultimate goal of Ergonomics is to maximize one’s well-being and overall performance.
What are the key ergonomic factors to consider when designing a workspace?
Typically, in an office work space, the most notable risk factor is the presence of non-neutral, or awkward postures. When a particular body joint is in a non-neutral posture, the muscles crossing the joint are not in an optimal position, working in a biomechanical disadvantage. Coupled with the static/sustained nature of these non-neutral/awkward postures, over extended periods, this can quickly lead to discomfort and increase the chance of injury. Common work elements that have a postural effect include monitor distances, reach distances to input devices and the supporting chair.
Is there an ideal desk height that should be specified?
Most desks come in a standard 29”-30” (740-760mm) height. Depending on individual/task needs, there are a few different strategies to ensure the appropriate working height is achieved.
What are the benefits of a height adjustable desk?
There are several benefits of a height adjustable desk – from the increased opportunities for postural variation to increasing activity and energy expenditure levels, to even reports of improved creativity and offering opportunities to stretch in a standing position.
What are the guidelines for proper monitor set up? Is a dual monitor better than one?
General monitor position guidelines suggest the top of the monitor at eye level, roughly at ‘arms-length’ away (20”-40” or 500-1000mm). Tweaking these guidelines, based on the tasks, your vision, as well as the font/resolution off your screen may be required. For dual monitor set-ups, whereby one monitor is primarily used to display electronic documentation for referencing – the ‘dominant’ or primary monitor should be centered directly in front of one’s self, and the secondary (reference) monitor would be positioned off to the left/right, depending on your eye dominance.
Why is it important to use a keyboard tray?
While a home office can function well without a keyboard tray; the right keyboard tray can be a versatile tool to enhance performance and comfort. It offers a secondary surface for your input devices and frees up your immediate work surface for documents and other items. More importantly, it can allow for your feet to be comfortably on the floor, while positioning the keyboard and mouse at an appropriate (elbow) height. Some models can offer features that can fine-tune neutral postures in the shoulders and elbows.
Are there recommended heights for all the above?
There may be a few different references used when it comes recommended work heights. One of the most commonly referenced in Canada is the ‘CSA Z412-17 – An Application Standard for Workplace Ergonomics’. The measurements are derived from anthropometric data, which account for a reasonable range of the general, healthy working population. For instance, guidelines for an adjustable keyboard support indicate between 575-747mm (22.6”-29.4”), measured from the floor. Monitor height guidelines (top line of screen to floor) is referenced to be adjustable between 1091 to 1271mm (43”-50”).
The opportunity in custom designing one’s home office will allow you to factor in your anticipated work tasks and available equipment (i.e. monitor) and determine how the space can be purposely built for you and your family’s needs.
What are the key features to look for in a desk chair?
It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the ‘bells and whistles’, the colourful and beautiful seating options in the market. In my professional and humble opinion, the top 3 features for a home office chair when used for extensive periods of time:
1) Lumbar support. The position of the lumbar support needs to fall into the ‘small of one’s back’. Often this is adjustable by the backrest height adjustment, however some models are adjusted by an integrated lumbar height adjustment. Lumbar depth adjustment is a nice bonus.
2) Seat pan size. Guidelines suggest between 2-3 fingers behind the back of one’s knees to the front edge of the seat (when one is seated with the lumbar support in the ‘small of one’s back’). A standard seat pan may be too large for some, to which a smaller seat pan option may be beneficial.
3) Backrest angle. A slightly reclined posture is often referenced as the working, neutral seated posture. However, adjusting the angle throughout the day, between tasks, is a great way to integrate postural variation in the seated position.
Holance Chan, HBSc.Kin., AE
Holance approaches Ergonomics with an emphasis on identifying needs to ensure that the design of the environment and the workstation is optimized to support the specific individual and task requirements. He is equipped with over a decade of experience in a wide range of industries, including office, manufacturing, health care and livestock agriculture.
International Ergonomics Association https://www.iea.cc
Yale EHS https://ehs.yale.edu/
All About Vision https://www.allaboutvision.com/resources/dominant-eye-test.htm
CSA Z412-17 – An application standard for workplace ergonomics https://store.csagroup.org/ccrz__ProductDetails?sku=2701197