Workplace Ergonomics: Make Your Desk Work For You

Posted on: June 29, 2016

Battling Chronic Office Fatigue from Your Work Environment

Monday through Friday, your shoulders are tight and your neck aches. By Sunday afternoon you start to feel a bit better, but the pain returns on your first day back to work. If that sounds familiar, your workplace ergonomics are probably out of whack. Easing your pains may be simpler than you realize, though.

Workplace Ergonomics Diagram

Workplace Ergonomics: Click to open image

Pain in the neck and shoulders, which may lead to headaches or shooting pains down the arms and legs, is often caused by a poorly set up work desk and computer.

Office Ergonomics Tips

  1. The first thing to do is check the height of your computer monitor. Your eyes should be level with the top of the screen, which prevents you from tilting your head back or forward and putting strain on your neck.
  2. Next, check your chair. And no, you don’t need to spend $2000 on a sophisticated one to get the support you need. I recommend a chair with adjustable height, adjustable arm rests, and lumbar—which means lower back—support. Adjust the rests so that your arms are bent at a 90-degree angle while typing. If your chair doesn’t offer lower back support, you can add a lumbar pillow to get the cushion you need.
  3. The other key to a healthy work station is not being tied to it for hours on end. You need to get up and walk around for at least five minutes out of every hour. Your eyes will need a break, too. Every so often, look past your monitor out a window or across the office. You can also experiment with changing the fonts on your computer to ease eye strain. If you struggle with computer glare, try reading glasses with a slight tint. Look for a pair that correct for the distance from your screen—which should be about 20 to 30 inches.

Don’t Stand For It

Many people are trying standing desks, but I’m not a big fan. You lose forearm support, and that can lead to repetitive stress injuries. Plus, standing all day can be just as hard on your body as sitting. The strain on postural muscles can lead to fatigue, and then you’ll start to slump, which is why I believe chairs provide better posture support.

The most important ergonomic lesson? You need to structure your work environment to serve your body—not contort the body to fit your work station. If you’re fatigued, struggle concentrating, or are experiencing pain at work take a careful look at your ergonomics.

“You need to structure your work environment to serve your body—not contort the body to fit your work station.”

If you’re battling chronic soreness, aches, or back issues, you may want to seek the advice of medical professionals. At Northern Westchester Hospital’s Rehabilitation Services, our therapists work with everyone from new moms who are adjusting to the demands of lifting and carrying a baby, and people working assembly lines, to office workers, dentists and doctors. The physical therapists at NWH can provide and ergonomics assessment, and teach patients strategies for managing their environment, whether that means adjusting the workspace to better fit the body or learning proper lifting techniques. Therapists also offer joint mobilization and soft tissue work, and exercises that strengthen the core muscles to help improve posture and prevent future problems. Don’t sacrifice your body for your work environment, there’s always an ergonomic solution that can help.

Editor’s Note: Laura Liebesman is a Physical Therapist and Manager of the Sports Program at Northern Westchester Hospital. Meet our therapists at or schedule an appointment at 914-458 8700.