Office Ergonomics: Feel Better, Work Better!


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in 2013 accounted for 380,600 or one-third of all the days-away-from-work cases. BLS also reports workers who sustained MSDs in 2013 required a median of 11 days to recuperate before returning to work, compared with 8 days for all types of cases.

The overall increase in MSDs in industry has prompted research into the causes and in legislation in the U.S. regulating the design of office furniture and duration of video terminal work. Appropriate ergonomic adaptations have been found to effectively reduce the risk of MSD symptoms. Adapting a workstation to each person and their work requirements ensures that it functions as intended. Worker productivity is increased if work areas are arranged to suit them and the type of work being done. They feel better and work better!

To set up workstations for optimal comfort and performance, it is helpful to understand the concept of neutral body posture. Neutral body posture is a comfortable working position in which joints are naturally aligned. Working with the body in a neutral position reduces stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, nerves, and joints, which can reduce the risk of developing an MSD.

Use the following list to help assess workstation setup:


  • Is seat height adjusted so feet are positioned flat on floor and fully supported?
  • Are knees at same height as hips?
  • Are thighs and hips parallel to floor or angled slightly down?
  • Does lumbar support make contact with small curve in lower back?
  • Are hands, wrists, and forearms straight, in-line, and roughly parallel to floor?
  • Are shoulders in a relaxed position with upper arms hanging at side of body?
  • Is distance of one to two inches between front edge of seat pan and backside of knees?
  • Is seat pan width adequate with one to two inches of space between thigh and chair edge?



  • Is keyboard in a flat position directly in front of and aligned with monitor?
  • Is keyboard positioned at a height that allows wrists to be in a straight line with arms?
  • Once height is adjusted, is keyboard tray level or in a downward tilt?



  • Is mouse at same level as and in close proximity to keyboard?
  • Mouse fits hand comfortably and keeps fingers relaxed and slightly curved?
  • Wrist rest or mouse pad allows wrist to rest on a soft surface and help avoid contact pressure?



  • Is monitor positioned directly in front and square with keyboard?
  • Is monitor placed at a comfortable distance for viewing?
  • Is top 1/3 of monitor screen at eye level?
  • If wearing bifocal, trifocal, or progressive lenses, is monitor lowered to avoid tilting head back while viewing?
  • Is document holder used to help scan between document and screen?



  • Is phone positioned close to workstation to avoid extended reaching while dialing and/or answering calls?
  • If using phone for extended periods of time, is a headset or speaker phone used?

The dollars spent on improving the ergonomic design of workstations have an excellent return on investment. This investment leads to improved performance and improved well-being. Ergonomics provides the foundation for effective management and well-trained workers to perform at their best level.

For additional assistance with office ergonomics, please contact Gary Smith, CRM, at (517) 338-3367 or


1. OSHA Computer Workstations eTool:

2. SAIF Corporation:


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