Understanding the Term “Ergonomic” as it Applies to Office Products

A quick walk around your local office supply store or a visit to an office product website will quickly reveal many office products that claim to be ‘ergonomic’; but what does that really mean?  There are no standards dictating what can be called ergonomic and the reality is that the word ergonomic doesn’t necessarily mean the product is the best solution for an individual’s discomfort or injury.  To deal with this, we, as consumers, need to become more educated about what products will best suit our needs.

Chair

A good rule of thumb is that the more adjustment features a chair has, the better the fit that can be achieved, which is important for comfort and injury reduction.  At minimum, chairs should adjust for seat height, lumbar support height, armrest height, and backrest angle. Additional features can be helpful for optimal chair set-up including: armrest width, seat pan depth, lumbar support depth, and seat pan angle.

One consideration that can often be overlooked is chair size.  Chairs are not one size fits all.  A petite or taller individual may not be able to achieve a good fit regardless of the number of adjustment options.  In these cases, look for chairs that come with different sized seat pans and backrests to get something more ‘customized’.

 

Mouse

Conventional mice are all the same basic size and shape with minor variations. However, this tool seems to be constantly evolving, making mice one of the more unique tools at an office workstation. 
Mouse size can play an important role in comfort and some newer options vary in size (even offering multiple sizes (S-XL)) in order to fit a variety of hand sizes.

The RollerMouse has taken non-conventional to a new level, changing the location, size and shape of the mouse.  This mouse reduces reaching, eliminates the issue of hand size and allows users to easily rotate between left and right hands, a valuable feature for some folks with injuries.

Keyboard

Keyboard options have remained relatively consistent over the past several years with the main options continuing to be a standard keyboard, left handed keyboard or split or wave style keyboard.  Split and wave style keyboards improve wrist/elbow postures and widen the working area which can be better for larger individuals.  Left handed keyboards enable the mouse to be positioned closer to the body since the numeric keypad is on the left side (which is actually better for people who mouse on the right).

Monitor

Monitors that adjust for height provide a lot of flexibility for multi-user workstations, allowing each person to set their working height to their stature.  Monitor height can be adjusted with a variety of external accessories including monitor stands (sit under the screen) and monitor arms (mount to the screen).  Monitor arms are more flexible allowing frequent adjustments and the ability to move the screen for meetings, etc. in an office which may be important for good set-up.

 

Be an educated consumer! Consider these questions when researching products:

  1. How is this product different from others on the market?
  2. How will this product change the way the user will interact with their equipment?
  3. What discomfort or symptoms might this product work to alleviate?
  4. Are there any drawbacks?

In all cases, remember that change takes time.  Be sure to educate employees on how to properly set up and use each product.  Even if the product is a great fit from an ergonomic standpoint, if the user hasn’t been educated they may find it frustrating to use, use it incorrectly or simply not use it at all.

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