Ergonomic Equipment Essentials

In the market for new stuff for your office? Well, there are a lot of options today for office equipment that can lead to a really frustrating experience. I know this because I have certainly been there before. There are just so many options and it seems that every product out there claims that they are ‘ergonomic’, but really this couldn’t be further from the truth. For this reason, we’ve put together a concise list that offers suggestions about what to look for when you need office ergonomic equipment. Any new equipment should always be based on your needs especially if you are experiencing any sort of discomfort, if you have really specific job tasks (take for instance the needs of a programmer versus a graphic designer), or any other specific concerns. So, check out our suggestions below to find out all about what to look for when you are in the market for ergonomic office equipment…

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Key Purchasing Suggestions For Office Equipment

Chair Essentials

  • Lumbar (lower back) support: The lumbar support should be adjustable whenever possible; ideally, the lower back support should be height and pressure adjustable. However, most chairs that are available today won’t likely have both types of adjustments standard. Usually only the backrest height lumbar adjustment is standard and the pressure adjustment is usually an expensive add-on. If you have the means, I’ve seen a lot of positive outcomes with having both types of adjustments in chairs. Note: adjustability in pressure is usually accomplished with some sort of air bladder that can be inflated/deflated or with tension adjustments on the back of the chair.
  • Synchro-tilt functionality (ability to change the entire angle of the seat pan and backrest; they move together as a unit): Synchro-tilt is a common feature for the large majority of new chairs these days and usually comes with a free-float feature that can be used when the function is unlocked. The free-float feature essentially turns your chair into a rocking chair where sitting changes from a static to more of a dynamic type of movement. Those who use this function tend to like it.
  • Chair tension adjustability: Having the ability to adjust the chair’s tension has also become a standard feature these days on new chairs. This feature controls the ease that the synchro-tilt function works as well as how much ‘give’ or flexibility you have with your free float function (aka rocking chair ability) of the chair. Less tension means more freedom of movement when the synchro-tilt function is unlocked.
  • Multi-tilt functionality (ability to angle and lock the backrest into many different back positions): The multi-tilt function tends to be a standard option with higher-end type of ergonomic chairs. Otherwise multi-tilt is considered to be an ‘extra’ for many base model chairs. Multi-tilt functionality may cost you a little extra, but this feature is a big value-add since research is now recommending that the most optimal backrest angle for comfort is slightly reclined (between 95 and 115 degrees) instead of the ‘traditional’ sitting upright posture (90 degrees). The multi-tilt function allows you to make the adjustment and easily lock it into place. Note: You can have a multi-tilt combined with a synchro-tilt on a chair, it is usually pretty standard.
  • Seat height adjustability: Adjusting the chair’s height is completely standard these days and has been for a very long time. If your chair cannot adjust its height, it is definitely time to look at purchasing a different (newer) chair!
  • Seat pan depth adjustability: A seat pan slider is suggested to get the best fit out of the chair. It’s a commonly overlooked feature, but fitting the seat pan can go a long way to help solve lower back discomfort. Additionally, if you are looking to purchase a chair that will be shared amongst many people, this feature will help fit maybe 90 percent of people due to its depth adjustability. For those that are very small or very large, one standard sized chair will likely not be able to accommodate their thigh length so you may need to look at speciality sized chairs. Ideally, there should be about 2–3 fingers between the edge of the chair and the back of the calves!
  • Armrest adjustability: The options for armrest adjustability include height, width, and length. To accommodate as many people as possible with one type of chair design, armrests should at least be height and width (usually can pivot towards the user). The armrest length feature is a useful adjustment if they come in contact with the desk, preventing you from getting close (and comfortable) to your work.

Other Equipment

  • Desk: The standard height for a desk today is about 74 cm (29″) from the ground. Options include either a sitting-only desk, a sit-stand, or a standing-only desk. For a sit-stand desk, it should be able to adjust quickly and effectively; if it takes more than 10 seconds to move from sitting to standing, people tend to not use this feature as much. For this reason, I favour automation rather than a hand-crank, even though a hand-crank is usually cheaper. The keyboard tray should have standard lift, lock and tilt mechanisms. The optimal set-up for a keyboard tray would either be a neutral or negative tilt to have a neutral wrist posture. The keyboard tray should also be long enough so that both the keyboard and mouse can both fit on it. Keyboard trays can also be put into the corner of desks, although this does require specific supportive structures and it’s difficult to hack a regular keyboard tray to one that fits into the corner of a desk. One last thing: you can buy specific keyboard trays that raise into a standing position.
  • Monitor: Monitors should be height, tilt, and swivel adjustable. The standard options include monitor stands and monitor arms. From a function perspective, there is not much difference between stands and arms. However, one benefit of monitor arms is that they offer quick and simple re-positioning, especially for multiple monitors. Ideally, the top of the monitor screen should be slightly lower than neutral eye height and then tilted upwards approximately 15 degrees. The monitor should be within approximately on arm length away from the user. For more information on adjusting the office, check out this post.
  • Keyboard: If you don’t have any discomfort then a regular type of keyboard would likely be fine for you. If you have discomfort then there are many different types and models of keyboards available today that you can purchase. For instance, there are some keyboards that allow for a more neutral wrist or shoulder position and some that will allow for less force when typing. There are many options available and we’ve done many reviews of these in the past (check out our past posts). As with any ergonomic suggestion, the key is to trial many keyboards before making your final decision. In a past post, we’ve written about how much we like compact keyboards, but really it is up to the your preferences, (any) specific discomfort, and any other concerns.
  • Mouse: Just like for the keyboard suggestion, if you don’t have any specific ergonomic concerns then a standard/regular mouse (the one that comes with a desktop computer) would likely be fine for you. However, if you have concerns, discomfort, or are looking for something new, you could be looking at purchasing a non-traditional mouse (we have also done many reviews of mice, you can search them in our past blogs). Keep in mind that whenever looking for a mouse, it should be the correct size to support the natural curve of the hand. Choose buttons that respond to a light touch and ensure that the button location neither cramps the fingers or spreads them too far apart. It’s always recommended to trial several options before making your final decision.
  • Footrest: Footrests are preferred to using the chair’s prongs as support, if your feet do not touch the ground, or if you’d like a physical reminder to keep your back supported by the backrest. In terms of design, they should at least be angle adjustable and angled towards the user. This allows the knees to be in an optimal ergonomic position, between 90 and 120 degrees bent. For shorter individuals, you can purchase a combination of height and angle adjustable footrests.
  • Wrist Rest: Wrist rests should be used to reduce wrist extension as well as contact stress between the user and desk when typing or mousing. Usually they are requested only after wrist discomfort begins. Wrists rests tend to work like this: the more compressible the wrist rest, the less exposure to ergonomic risk.
  • Anti-Fatigue Mat: Anti-fatigue mats work in two ways related to standing. Firstly, they promote blood flow to reduce lower extremity fatigue by being a slightly unstable surface to stand on. Secondly, they are compressible that can help to reduce lower back discomfort. When purchasing, ensure that the edges are beveled to reduce any trip hazards. Further, most anti-fatigue matting are not meant to have a chair on top of it, so in periods of sitting, it is recommended that the anti-fatigue matting is relocated.

Interested To Learn More About Ergonomics? These articles below were hand-selected to complement this post:

  1. Ultimate Chair Adjustment Guide 
  2. How To Hack Your Health With Standing Desks 
  3. Why You Don’t Need A Standing Desk 
  4. The Biggest Band You Can Make In The Office
  5. How To Set-up Your Workstation For Sitting Or Standing 

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Through the administration of countless assessments in both private and public sectors, Darcie has gained a wealth of knowledge and built a successful practice in the field of ergonomics. She has extensive expertise in conducting office ergonomics assessments in large scale workplaces for all different types of scenarios, from simple adjustments to incredibly complex cases. Darcie also has vast experience in delivering training presentations on the various aspects of ergonomics “best practices” in the workplace. Darcie is a Certified Professional Ergonomist through the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics, as recognized by the International Ergonomics Association. She also has a Masters of Science, specializing in ergonomics. A little known fact about Darcie is that she once scored from half, off a free kick, in a university varsity soccer (football) match!

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