Green Ergonomic Office (Part 1)

Ergonomic Office Posture Photo

Photo credit to Mike Licht,

Setting up a green office has less to do with buying high tech ergonomic equipment, and more with using what you already have correctly. Buying less office equipment, means less chance for your old stuff ending up in the landfill somewhere, and quite frankly, no matter what you currently have, it is probably a lot more functional than you may realize. Sometimes the best way to reuse old office equipment, is to have never thrown it away in the first place.

We spoke with one of the foremost experts on office ergonomics, Tony Biafore, to find out some of the facts of setting up a functional, ergonomic, and healthy office. But before we get to the interview featured in part 2, I think an introduction is in order of why good office ergonomics is so important, and how it can be achieved using your current office furniture.Introduction
Science and technology has caught up enough with consumer demand to give us the chance to build upon our own ergonomic needs, even if companies and organizations seldom provide such equipment on their own accord. There are many ways to improve comfort levels in the office environment and curb the possibility of office related injuries, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

Many offices run under the delusion that by purchasing new "ergonomic" office equipment, they can find an easy solution to such problems. In reality, the problem does not necessarily lie in the hands of the products themselves as much as it does in their proper use. But before you can battle any office related injury you must first know what it is exactly what you are dealing with.

Symptoms to Watch For is a great source for learning about potential symptoms of poor office ergonomics and how to find relief for both CTS and RSI. For CTS, which is basically a pinched and inflamed nerve in the hand, there are a number of symptoms you should be on the lookout for:

Pain and/or numbness of hand
Tingling sensation in fingers, wrist and hand
Poor circulation (cold hands)
Weak grip causing frequent dropping of objects

RSI is very similar to CTS, but also includes other various strains and injuries of the upper limbs, overall musculoskeletal system and eyes. These are all related to particular repetitive motions that are very common in the office environment where long, unbroken periods of work are common. These are the symptoms to watch for with RSI:

Constant pain in either the elbows, shoulders, neck and/or back
Pain in the upper limbs and shoulders

Proper Ergonomic Desk Positioning
To combat these situations it becomes necessary to keep your hand and wrist level with each other. This means that your keyboard and mouse should be as close to your lap as possible with your forearms parallel to the floor and your upper arms hanging comfortably to your side. You also need to be seated comfortably with your back and upper limbs properly supported throughout the chair.

For an overall checklist of how to properly use your office space including your posture, monitor, keyboard and mouse set-up, you can look at the OSHA section of the U.S. Department of Labor. The information can be a valuable asset to use along with any products you may be considering for your workspace.

Despite what you may have been told, proper positioning has more to do with using your equipment properly, than it does the products you are using. This is known as "Voodoo Ergonomics". We will learn more about this concept from Tony Biafore in Part 2.

More on Office Ergonomics
Work on a Laptop
Hip Office: Ergonomic Workspace for Those on the Go
Think Office Chair

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