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How to Perform an Ergonomic Assessment in the Workplace

Two people looking at a piece of paper

Ergonomics should be taken seriously by employers and members of a company's workforce. An ergonomic assessment helps determine whether your workstation, either at home or in the office, has an ergo-friendly setup.

A comprehensive ergonomic assessment should cover all aspects of your daily responsibilities in a single role. It should also cover tasks you frequently complete throughout any given workday. 

The goal of the assessment is to look for ways to mitigate risk and/or reduce awkward postures, increase comfort, and prevent work-related injuries. Typically, the results will be a mixture of behavior modifications and equipment recommendations. 

Nearly 275,000 musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)  - which are commonly referred to as "ergonomic injuries" - require employees to take time away from work. That accounts for nearly one-third of all time-off requests (or requirements) due to injuries. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overexertion and repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are the leading cause of these injuries. 

What is an Ergonomic Assessment?

An ergonomic assessment is a workplace evaluation and consists of assessing its furnishings, tools, and equipment. It also covers the tasks assigned to workers and their physical abilities to complete these tasks.

It's essential to note that a qualified ergonomist or ergonomic assessment specialist (DSE in the UK) is the best choice to complete this type of assessment. 

This article is meant to be a beginner guide of what you should look for in an ergonomic assessment. Also, it can reveal areas that the user can consider modifying to improve their ergonomics and be proactive for their future wellbeing.

Beginners Guide to Performing an Ergonomic Assessment

For the average worker working in front of the computer for most of the day, the following areas should be considered in an ergonomic assessment. Let's start from the head and proceed to the toes.

1. Monitor Height

The height of your monitor or screens affects the soft tissue of your neck. Whether you use an external monitor or laptop, you should be viewing your monitor at eye level. 

A monitor stand, laptop riser, or monitor arm is an excellent solution for adjusting the height of your screen. It should be adjustable and not just look cool. 

Consider Kensington’s SmartFit® One-Touch Monitor Arm. They have them for single and multiple screen displays. 

2. Keyboard Placement

Your keyboard should be low in your lap area. From your elbow to the desk, your forearm should be a flat bridge from one side to the other. If not, your desk is too high, and you should consider a lower desk.

You can also opt for a SmartFit® Clamp-On Keyboard Drawer or keyboard tray. The keyboard should also be close to you on the desk. You should not have to let your elbow pass in front of your body to reach your keyboard. 

Also, consider using an ergonomic keyboard like Kensington’s Pro Fit® Ergo Keyboard. The slightly sloped or negative tilt position increases comfort while typing and promotes added hand circulation.

3. Mouse Placement

When it comes to mouse placement, you should be able to reach your mouse while your elbow remains against your body. It should not extend forward. 

Two popular ergonomic recommendations for mousing comfort improvement include using the following products: 

  • Vertical Mouse: Consider using a Pro Fit® Ergo Vertical Mouse if you like the feel of a traditional mouse (left-click/right-click, scroll in the center). These allow you to make larger muscle movements from the elbow or the upper arm versus moving just your wrist, which can inflame your wrist/carpal tunnel quickly. 
  • Trackballs: Consider an Orbit® Fusion™ Wireless Trackball if you tend to move your mouse forward on your desk all day and/or may have shoulder discomfort. Using a trackball at the edge of your desk minimizes shoulder movement. It also keeps your shoulder in a neutral position. 

Using customization software like KensingtonWorks™ also helps customize shortcuts to gain even more efficiencies.

4. Support for Your Back

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), back problems account for one of the top ten reasons people seek medical treatment. For roughly 10%, these become chronic (long-term) issues.

One way to reduce back pain symptoms is by incorporating back support into your workstation. You can do this by selecting a chair that has lots of adjustments including, but not limited to:

  • Seat height
  • Seat depth
  • Armrest adjustability
  • Tension control

These provide a personalized fit that will present the most comfort. If you don't have those options available, you want to ensure your back is supported. Utilize external lumbar supports so your low back can rest comfortably to avoid hunching forward throughout the day. If needed, get a SmartFit® Conform™ Back Rest for added back support.

5. Support for Your Feet

Once your monitor, chair, keyboard, and mouse are in the right location, don’t forget about your feet. Having your feet resting on the floor or supported by a Rocking Foot Rest will make certain you lean back into your supportive chair. It will also help with circulation in your legs.

6. Other Misc. Tips

Microbreaks and stretching will also improve ergonomics. Many injuries occur from working too long without rest. Try taking microbreaks and doing simple stretches to keep your body moving.

Simply standing up and then sitting back down for 5-10 seconds is a nice reset for your body too. Ideally, you should take a microbreak every 20 minutes.

The last tip would be the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something 20 feet (or meters) away. This will help ease eye strain and be less fatigued by the end of the day.

Ergonomic Assessments Made Easy by Kensington’s Ergo Experts

These recommendations will not cure injuries, but they will help you be proactive and prevent injuries from getting worse by using proper equipment. At Kensington, we do this because your health and wellness remain one of our top priorities.

We will continue to develop products with this in mind. We are here to help you get your office set up for success with ergonomic equipment and design tips.

For more information on how to have an ergonomic assessment done for your workstation, contact us here at Kensington. Our Ergo Experts can assist you.