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Ergonomic Tips: Tidbits for Office Workers

1. What are the ergonomic risk factors that you should be aware of when you evaluate your job and how you do it? They are Repetition, Force, Posture, Environment, and Psychosocial Issues.

2. There are three main ergonomic stressors associated with computer work. They are 1) Sitting for Extended Periods, 2) Intense Visual Tasks (reading screen and source documents), and 3) Repetitive Keying or Mousing Activities.

3. Take the time to thoroughly learn the software packages you routinely use. Most users of software understand about 1/3 of the software. Knowing the software allows you to be efficient in terms of (e.g.) minimizing keystrokes.

4. Be aware of any macro or other "short-cut" (e.g., function) keys that will reduce multiple keystrokes.

5. Be sure to select the input device that will minimize repetitive motions when using the software package (e.g., Is the mouse or the arrow keys quicker to navigate around in the software environment?).

6. Alternate between the mouse and other input (pointing) devices and the keyboard. This provides a recovery break by using different muscles in the arms/hands.

7. Take the time to learn about the adjustment features of your chair and other workstation components. NOTE that many adjustment controls on chairs are not obvious (they may be hidden underneath the chair, or feedback may not be immediate when you operate the control). Read the instruction manual!

8. To reduce fatigue across the work day, take microbreaks during the day. Microbreaks are short rest periods interspersed throughout the workday.

9. Try to take a microbreak of 30 seconds for every 10-15 minutes of continuous work at the computer.

10. The advantage of microbreaks is that several short breaks are more beneficial to the body in reducing fatigue than is one long break.

11. During a microbreak, take advantage of the many stretching exercises described in these tips.

12. During a microbreak, perform any job function that does not require keying at the computer (filing, copying, etc.). In other words, work the muscles differently than the keying activity works the muscles.

13. Often we feel that we can't take a microbreak because we are too busy and under too much pressure. This is the time you need a microbreak the most. Take the few seconds required for the microbreak in order to work at a higher productivity level throughout the entire work day.

14. Set a maximum period of 45 minutes to 1 hour continuous work at a computer. At the end of this period take a 2-5 minute rest break. Be sure to stand up during the rest break.

15. If you wait for fatigue or discomfort to occur before you take a work break, you have waited too long!

16. Exercises can reduce fatigue and improve your productivity during the work day. However, be cautious when selecting an exercise regimen or a set of stretching exercises to perform on the job. See your doctor before starting any intensive exercise regimen. When selecting stretching exercises to do on the job, select only those exercises that are working muscles in a manner opposite to what the job requires. And always remember, stretching exercises should never hurt! If they do, stop immediately.

17. Exercises for the Upper Body. Stand up and let your arms relax at your sides. Extend your arms out at shoulder level with your palms facing up. Spread the fingers and then bend the wrist so that the fingers now point towards the floor. Hold for a count of five. Relax the arms at your sides and gently shake them out. Repeat five times.

18. Exercises for the Upper Body. Stand up and let your arms relax at your sides. Raise the left arm to shoulder level and extend it out to your side, with the palm facing up. Then bend the wrist so that the fingers are pointed towards the floor. Then turn the neck to the opposite side of the body. Hold for a count of five. Relax the arm at your sides and gently shake it out. Repeat five times for each arm.

19. Exercises for the Upper Body. Stand up, letting your arms hang by your sides. Make a fist with each hand (squeezing moderately), then open the fist stretching your fingers out. Hold each motion (closed and opened hand) for a count of 5. Repeat 5 times.

20. Exercises for the Upper Body. While seated, let your arms hang off the sides of the chair. Lean your head as far as it will go to the right (try to touch right ear to right shoulder). Hold for a count of 5, then do the same motion to the left side. Repeat 5 times. Do not stretch the neck to a point where it feels uncomfortable or pain is experienced.

21. Exercises for the Upper Body. While seated, without moving your chin up or down, glide your head straight back, forming a double chin. Hold for a count of 5, relax, and repeat 5 times.

22. Exercises for the Upper Body. While seated, stretch your neck vertically by imagining a cable pulling your head up. Hold for a count of 5, relax, and repeat 5 times.

23. Exercises for the Upper Body. While seated, raise your arms overhead (as if signaling a touchdown). Squeeze the shoulder blades. Hold for a count of 5, relax, and repeat 5 times.

24. Exercises for the Upper Body. While seated, clasp your hands behind your head, interlacing the fingers at the neck. Press the back of the head into the hands, and push the elbows back as far as they will go. Hold for a count of 5, relax by lowering the arms and gently shaking out the arms, and repeat 5 times.

25. Exercises for the Back and Legs. Sit up straight in your chair. Slowly lean forward until you grasp your lower leg or ankles with your hands. Hold for a count of 10. Sit back upright using your hands to help push you back into the upright position. Repeat 5 times.

26. Exercises for the Back and Legs. Stand up and place your hands in the small of the back. Arch back, keeping your head vertical as you arch back (in other words do not throw the head back as you arch). Hold for a count of five, and repeat five times.

27. Exercises for the Back and Legs. Stand up and place your hands on your hips and lean sideways to the right for a count of ten, then to the left for a count of ten. Repeat five times.

28. Exercises for the Back and Legs. Stand up. Place the feet shoulder width apart and step forward with your right foot. Bring both feet flat to the floor (heel of rear foot should not be off the floor). Slowly bend the right knee, keeping the heel of the left foot on the floor. Hold for a count of ten. Switch feet and repeat five times for each foot.

29. In addition to exercises (flexing muscles), rubbing muscles is a good way to releive pain or discomfort in the muscle. It helps blood flow.

Ergonomic Tips:  Introduction
Ergonomic Tips:  For Office Workers
Ergonomic Tips:  Workstation
Ergonomic Tips:  Physical Environment
Ergonomic Tips:  Psychosocial
Ergonomic Tips:  Materials Handling
Ergonomic Tips:  Vision & Monitors
Ergonomic Tips:  Personal Risk Factors

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