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Ergonomics Program

Ergonomics is concerned with the "fit" of the user with equipment and their work environment. The proper ergonomic design and setup of the work environment including furniture and other equipment is necessary to prevent musculoskeletal injuries caused by repetitive actions or awkward positions. Poor setup and work practice can lead to injuries and long-term physical health effects. Good work station design and equipment is key in the prevention of long term health effects due to musculoskeletal injuries and repetitive strain.

As people return to campus, take a moment to assess your workstation and discuss any situations with your supervisor where equipment may be required. If you would like an assessment from the Safety Office, please complete the request form here: Workstation Ergonomic Assessment.

Setting Up Your Remote Workstation

While faculty and staff are still working from remote locations, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

Good Habits and Good Health

A large part of ergonomics is practicing good habits. Pay attention to your personal health. Just as exercise and a balanced diet are vital in keeping a healthy lifestyle, habits of good posture are vital to ergonomics. These factors are connected and support each other. Proper posture is just as important as how your work station is set up.

UWinnipeg Athletic Therapy has many resources for individuals working remotely who would like to maintain good posture and range of motion while working from home and may not have access to a gym or equipment. Find it here (New Window).

Firm Chair Support

It may be tempting to sit in that big comfortable chair in your living room with your laptop on your lap, but you should avoid doing so. This will cause you to crane your neck downwards which can lead to pain and strain. Use a more supportive chair and set your computer up at a desk, or a kitchen or dining room table. Adjustable office chairs are ideal, but the Safety Office recognizes that not everyone has one at home.

90 Degrees of Posture

The following are general guidelines of good posture. Keep in mind that there is no one “best” way to set up a work station ergonomically. Just as each person is different, so will be their work set up. There are three areas of your body that will be better served if you can maintain a neutral position of 90 degrees. These are your knees, hips and elbows. Keeping your feet supported on a firm surface can help as well. This can take the form of having your feet flat on the ground, or using a foot rest, but the important part of this is supporting the bottom of your feet so that your knees are supported to sit at around a 90 degree angle. Neutral and natural postures are the best practice to avoid strain and pain. Keep your keyboard in front of you so that you are not reaching to the side to use your keyboard, similarly, make sure that your monitor is directly in front of you so that you do not have to constantly look to the side to view your monitor.

No Pressure Points

When sitting at your home work station, be aware of pressure points, particularly at the backs of your knees, at your elbows, along your forearms and at your wrists. Pressure points can restrict blood flow to your extremities and cause pain or discomfort. Also be aware of repetitive motion strain which can occur from your wrist being irritated by the edge of the desk - particularly when using the mouse.

Set the Monitor to Avoid Glare

A good guideline of where your monitor should be, is to have the top edge of it just below your eyeline. This will keep you from craning your neck forwards too much. Use solids objects that you have around the house to raise the level of your monitor if necessary. Position your monitor to eliminate glare from light sources. To help with this, avoid sitting with your back facing a sunny window. Too much light entering your eyes can contribute to eye strain and fatigue.

Try to take the "Lap" out of Laptop

Laptop computers were designed for convenience, not ergonomics. Their design inherently counters or prevents good ergonomic adjustment. That being said, we must all work with what we have as best we can during this unique time. Try and meet the above recommendations of monitor level and elbow angle half-way if you can. If you have access, use a separate keyboard so that you can fit both guidelines of monitor height and elbow angle.

Follow the 20/20/20 Rule

A good ergonomic practice to help with eyestrain due to prolonged screen use is to look 20 feet away, for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. You may not accomplish it, but it's important to vary up your activity, and it's a good time to do some chair stretches, or to get a drink of water.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Above all, listen to your body and do what is comfortable. If your set up is comfortable, it is less likely to be causing you any harm. Pay attention to strain on your neck. In today’s world of smartphones and handheld devices, we are constantly looking down and craning our necks forward. This can easily cause strain and pain in your neck. Do not add to this by using a laptop computer directly on your lap. Keep your blood flowing! Get up from your home work station at least once an hour to relieve stagnation and rest your eyes. Do some light exercise and stretch to relieve tension in your legs, neck and shoulders.

Click here for Ergonomic information from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Transitioning to Home/Virtual/Remote Work - AON PLC (New Window)

Supervisors are encouraged to include the Manager, Safety and Health when planning changes to the work environment and equipment. Workers should discuss their needs with supervisors regarding the replacement of furniture or equipment prior to requesting an assessment.