When you’re trying to maximize utilization numbers, you need the right balance of quiet spots for uninterrupted concentration and social spots for collaboration and connection. Once you know what to include, you can create a floor plan that helps you make the most of your space. But it’s also important to do some space planning for “desktop real estate.” Incorporating smart workplace ergonomics — everything from screen tilt to mouse pad location — can improve employee comfort and productivity.  

What are workplace ergonomics 

Ergonomics focuses on supporting the body’s natural posture and movements. It’s the process of fitting the work environment to the worker to avoid work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which can include back, neck, wrist, and shoulder pain. 

“Ergonomics is looking for ways to improve the fit between the work and the worker to support health, well-being, and productivity,” explains Julie Dorsey, an occupational therapist who specializes in ergonomics, in a recent article for Forbes. 

Importance of ergonomics in the workplace 

Many of the benefits of workplace ergonomics revolve around comfort and wellness, both of which impact employee satisfaction and office culture. Being able to sit in a comfortable chair, watch a TV without craning your neck, or lounge in the break room is about more than just good posture for employees — it’s about feeling comfortable and relaxed.  

Workplace ergonomics also help the bottom line because it reduces the risk of stress-related injuries and MSDs. In fact, in its 2000 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that skilled workers who suffered MSD injuries lost an average of 19 workdays. When looking at all injuries that lead to lost workdays, 257,900 were ergonomically related, while 44% were caused by “bodily movements or exertion.”  

Ergonomics helps you keep employees happy and working. 

Implementing ergonomics in the workplace 

There are many opportunities to improve workplace design using a few guiding principles and ergonomically friendly equipment. Although there is a lot of science behind it, many of the ideas come down to common sense, requiring only a few adjustments and small investments of time and money. 

Ergonomic chairs 

Chairs should have lumbar support that promotes good curvature of the lower back to maintain the natural S-bend of the spine. For neck stabilization, chairs should have the same type of support for the cervical spine.  

Just as important as the chair is how you line it up with the floor and desk, so make sure to get chairs with adjustable heights. People should be able to sit with their feet on the floor and their legs parallel to the ground. Ideally, you want chairs that offer a lot of stability, so look for ones that have a nice wide base. Armrests are also important, and they also need to be adjustable.  

Adjustable and standing desks 

Desks should be free of clutter, with equipment and supplies within arm’s reach. Many modern adjustable-height desks lack drawers, so it might make sense to have a small cabinet at every station to help keep down the clutter.  

There should be ample place to rest the wrists while typing and keyboards should lay flat or at a slight incline. When sitting, employees should be able to rest their forearms comfortably without shrugging their shoulders. 

When deciding where desks should go on the floorplan, pay close attention to your windows and how sunlight comes into the room. Where possible, you can cut down on glare by positioning the desks so that the computer screens are at right angles to the windows. In some cases, you can invest in screens and curtains to block out the stronger rays on sunnier days.  

Properly positioned screens 

When positioning screens, you need to consider viewing angle and viewing distance. How much the person needs to tilt their head to see the screen, and how far away the screen is from their eyes. The wrong angle is a risk factor for neck and shoulder pain, while the wrong distance can strain your eyes. 

For most people, looking up at a screen causes fatigue, while looking down does not. So, screens should be a bit below their horizontal line of site. Although people often worry about screens being too far away, having to focus up close is harder on the eyes. Make sure there is enough room on the desk to have the screen at a comfortable distance. 

When setting up stations with multiple monitors, you can have them both at an angle in a semi-circle directly in front. Or, if they are different sizes, the main monitor in the center and the second monitor to the side, at an angle. 

No matter how good the setup is, encourage employees to take a “visual break” every thirty minutes where they look away from their screens and focus on a point in the mid-distance for a few minutes.   

Indirect lighting 

The lighting should be dim enough to cut screen glare, but bright enough to prevent squinting. For the best results, install adjustable lighting to prevent employees from altering their posture to avoid glare and discomfort. 

Letting in as much sunlight as possible helps cut electrical and HVAC costs but makes controlling light levels more challenging. Try to have as much indirect light as possible, coupled with task lights to spotlight small areas. For example, a desk lamp focused on a document holder.    

Presentation areas 

Presentation tools such as whiteboards, slideshow screens, and TVs should be easily viewed from all parts of a meeting room. Equipment should cater to both right- and left-handed individuals with ample space on both sides of the presentation surface to operate a mouse or keyboard. 

Where possible, try to go wireless, saving employees from having to bend around or crawl under tables to plug in cables.  

Workplace ergonomics and employee experience 

There are plenty of opportunities to improve your workplace ergonomics. Set standards by paying attention to the body’s biomechanics and the tendency to conform posture to our accommodations.  The result will be better comfort and workplace wellness — two things that’ll benefit any company and its workforce. 

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Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.