Computer ergonomics is a scientific discipline with computer-aided ergonomically designed devices and furniture to resolve complex human ergonomic issues affecting physical interaction between the body and its surrounding environment. It studies how humans can work comfortably in a work environment that enhances both cognitive and physical health and enables people to perform at their maximum capacity. It also involves designing a work environment and equipment that will promote health, safety, productivity, and motivation. It also applies research on how changes in computer software and hardware can improve performance and reduce workplace injuries and discomfort.
One of the major areas of computer ergonomics focuses on workstation equipment. Workstations include chairs, desks, stools, and other items that people commonly use in their day to day activities. The principal goal of this area of study is to develop productivity by eliminating undesirable items from the workstation. In doing so, it decreases the time required for completing tasks, increases workers’ productivity, and improves the quality of workers’ performance.
Ergonomically designed chairs and desks help provide the right posture for a worker. They should be wide enough to fit a standard computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other computer hardware. They should be adjustable to fit a variety of body sizes to provide a comfortable workspace. Furniture should be durable and properly balanced to promote good posture and prevent injuries such as repetitive movement related to sitting in one position for prolonged periods of time. Some computer workstations require a keyboard pull out tray to provide convenient access to the keyboard.
Another area of application of computer ergonomics focuses on carpal tunnel syndrome. This occurs when the median nerve servicing the hands and wrists are compressed or inflamed due to long hours spent in a computerized job. Common symptoms include pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in the hand or wrist. If not treated, carpal tunnel syndrome can eventually lead to complete loss of use of the fingers, and eventually the loss of use of the arms altogether. A properly designed computer workstation can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by encouraging a natural positioning strategy for the computer keyboard and mouse and avoiding habitual long hours in the desk.
One of the more well-known health risks resulting from improper desk height is computer vision syndrome. This can result from an improper keyboard placement, and more specifically, a keyboard that is too high. Sometimes, this results from the typical office chair that doesn’t fit a typical keyboard, and the result is increased distance between the feet and the desk. When working at a computer, the increased distance can result in increased visual distractions, which can cause eye strain and even headaches. Computer ergonomics should be considered when choosing a new computer workstation to reduce these risks.
Reducing worker injuries related to repetitive motions is another benefit of proper computer ergonomics. Engineers spend a large amount of time in their desks. The productivity of these workers can be greatly improved through the implementation of ergonomic workstations. With proper seating and support, engineers can more easily perform their tasks and produce a higher level of productivity.
One of the most common injuries sustained by office workers is repetitive strain injury, also known as RSI. The symptoms of RSI include a burning sensation, pain, swelling, or redness of the hand or wrist. Although computer ergonomics plays a large role in reducing the risks of sustaining a repetitive strain injury, many workers still have concerns about how computer workstations affect their health. Studies have shown that workers who spend a greater portion of the day in front of a computer screen suffer greater eye strain and headaches. The additional workload increases both the amount of eye strain and the actual length of time that workers spend in front of a computer screen. Because the increased time spent in front of a computer screen can significantly increase the amount of time that an employee spends in front of the screen, an ergonomic computer workstation can help to alleviate the eye strain and headaches associated with prolonged computer use.
Proper desk and computer ergonomics design can greatly reduce the risks associated with sitting at a desk all day, spending a large portion of the day in front of a computer screen. A proper workstation will allow a worker to sit at a comfortable desk and reach all parts of the desk comfortably. The design of a sit-stand workstation, including adjustable monitor and keyboard height, adjustable seat, and adjustable arm rests, will allow a worker to remain seated in a workstation for the majority of the day and at a desk for the shorter periods of time during the day.