Ergonomics in the Workplace

The modern sedentary lifestyle caused by the evolution of technology and convenience causes back and neck pain in about 80% of individuals at least once in their life. Jobs now involve sitting in front of a computer for long hours, repetitive tasks, and overuse. This causes stress and strain on an employee's muscles, joints, and nerves. Studies show that nearly half of the employees working on a computer for fifteen hours or more a week suffer some form of pain or joint problems in the first year.

The most common causes of these problems are sitting in a position for too long, repeated movements, bending over or lifting heavy objects frequently, and falls. The symptoms are back or neck pain, pain in shoulders, hands, and wrist. Work place ergonomics looks at reducing the stress that occurs at work to create a stress free working environment. It involves setting up the office comfortably by providing comfortable seating, lighting, and tools.

Ergonomics is derived from the words “ergon” meaning work and “nomoi” meaning natural laws. It defines the interactions of the human body with systems. Ergonomics implies the science of work. It is the science of making things more comfortable and efficient at the workplace or anywhere for that matter. Ergonomics could be in the form of a product or a service. It aims to protect the health and safety of the employee at the workplace. Ergonomics involves ensuring comfortable positions, proper seating, limiting stress on any one particular part of the body, frequently changing positions, turning the entire body instead of just one part, and taking breaks every now and then.

Those who do not follow proper ergonomic guidelines often have health issues. For example, improper sitting posture leads to lower back pain. Sitting posture is essential to avoid stress on the back especially if the job involves long hours of sitting in the same place. A relaxed position is better than keeping your back straight as the stress is on the chair rather than your back. Use a chair with a backrest for support. Moving around every now and then not only reduces the strain but also helps in generating fluids essential for lubricating the bones in the back. Adjust the height of the chair so that your feet can rest comfortably on the floor.

Too much light or viewing the screen for long periods can cause eyestrain and other problems. The important factors for better viewing include glare, brightness, amount of light, the distance between the screen, the vision of the employee, and any glasses or lens used. Direct glare, lights on walls, and ceilings can affect your ability to see the screen properly, causing eyestrain. Reflected glare refers to the reflection of light on your computer screen. It causes more damage than direct glare because you may change posture to avoid the glare, causing stress to the back. Ensure there is adequate light to read comfortably, yet not too much to cause strain to the eyes. Sit as far away from the screen as possible to avoid eyestrain. Do not stare for too long at the computer. Practice the 20/20 rule. Every twenty minutes, look at some object twenty feet away for twenty seconds.

Other ergonomic health issues have to do with the monitor being placed at an inconvenient height, as it can cause strain to the neck. And the distance between the mouse and keyboard can also impact the hand and shoulder. Ergonomics deals with all these issues, ensuring comfort and convenience while working to improve efficiency in the process. Look to the following resources for more information on ergonomics in the workplace.

Background Information

The Body



  • Viewing Angles & Distance: Offers information on how to achieve the best viewing angles and distance.
  • CVS: Detailed analysis of the Computer Vision Syndrome.
  • Office Lighting: Explains how to achieve the best lighting in the office.
  • Glare: Discusses the potential hazard and possible solutions of glare.
  • Lighting: Some tips to get the best ergonomics of lighting.

Additional Information

  • Occupational Therapy: An overview of the work of an occupational therapist.
  • NIOSH: Official website of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders: Statistics showing lost days from work due to musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Eyestrain: Discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatment of eyestrain.
  • Exercises: A number of exercises to help reduce neck and back pains.