Ergonomics: The Surprising Link Between Your Health And Office Setup


Creating an ergonomically-friendly workspace is a prerequisite whether working in an office or from home. Incorporating the principles of ergonomics, which involve tailoring the workspace to fit your specific needs, not only enhances productivity but also minimizes muscle fatigue and the occurrence of vision problems and work-related musculoskeletal disorders MSDs[1].

What is Ergonomics
The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics as a multidisciplinary field that focuses on understanding the interactions between humans and their environment. It combines and applies scientific knowledge and principles from various disciplines, such as anatomy, physiology, psychology, engineering, and statistics, to design systems that promote optimal human well-being and system performance.

Let’s explore how poor ergonomics can significantly affect your health.

1. Vision Problems: Proper desk ergonomics, long known for their benefits to backs and necks, are equally vital for the health of your eyes. Extended periods of reading or working on a computer can lead to Computer vision syndrome (CVS), causing eye irritation, dryness, blurred vision, headaches, and discomfort in the neck, shoulders, and back. Poor lighting strains your eyes, forcing you to adjust your posture to see clearly.

Tips to combat vision problems:
-Arrange your workstation to ensure proper visual ergonomics. Position your keyboard, mouse, and other tools to minimize excessive head or eye movements.
-Invest in anti-glare filters for your screens to reduce eye strain caused by harsh glare and reflections.
-Adjust your monitor to an optimal position, ensuring it is at eye level and about arm’s length away from your face. This helps maintain a comfortable viewing distance and minimizes strain.
-Create an ideal lighting environment by reducing glare and avoiding overly bright or dim lighting conditions to reduce eye discomfort and fatigue.
-Practice the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to focus on an object at least 20 feet away. This relieves eye muscle tension and minimizes eye strain.
-Maintain adequate humidity levels in your workspace to prevent dryness in the eyes. Consider using a humidifier if needed. Keep artificial tears handy to lubricate your eyes to combat dryness[3].

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2. Spinal Issues: Damaged spinal structures can cause back and neck pain from prolonged sitting and poor posture. Ergonomic factors, tasks like lifting in awkward postures, heavy lifting, and repetitive lifting, are linked to lower back pain. Prolonged static postures strain soft tissues and cause discomfort. Both standing and sitting have pros and cons related to mobility, exertion, energy consumption, circulation, coordination, and motion control. Poor sitting posture leads to inactivity, metabolic accumulation, accelerated disk degeneration, and herniation[4]. Widespread neck pain causes significant disability, accounting for 40% of work absenteeism. Neck pain in cervical radiculopathy can radiate pain to various areas like the arm, chest, and shoulders[5].

Tips to prevent spinal issues:
-Engage in exercises that target the core and back muscles to enhance strength and coordination, providing vital support and stability for your spine.
-Avoid prolonged static positions by frequently changing postures. Change positions frequently and incorporate stretching and movement breaks to prevent strain on the spine.
-Choose ergonomic chairs and supportive seating options that promote proper spinal alignment.
-Place the laptop on a stable surface and adjust the height using a laptop or monitor stand.
-Pay attention to lower back pain and timely report for medical advice and intervention to prevent further complications.

3. Musculoskeletal Disorders: Wrist, hand, and shoulder pain often stem from mouse and keyboard use. There is a clear link between prolonged use and discomfort[6]. Poor posture can initiate a chain reaction, causing the shoulders to roll forward and shortening the shoulder and neck muscles. This can lead to wrist pain, often caused by straining to reach a keyboard.

Tips to avoid musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs):
-Ensure your forearms are parallel to the floor when typing.
-Keep your elbows close to your sides for improved support.
-Maintain an upright posture with a straight back.
-Sit with your feet flat on the ground and knees at a 90-degree angle.
-Adjust your chair and desk height to promote proper alignment.
-Get an ergonomic chair for proper back support and posture, and use a cushion or lumbar roll to maintain your spine’s natural curve.
-Take regular breaks to stretch, and consider using a standing desk or sit-stand converter to avoid prolonged sitting and improve blood circulation.

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4. Reduced Productivity And Work Performance: Poor ergonomics can significantly impact productivity and work performance due to fatigue, discomfort, and decreased work efficiency. Organizations can boost employee retention rates by fostering a safe, comfortable work environment and prioritizing employee well-being. Moreover, this enhanced environment will facilitate peak performance, minimizing preventable errors.

Experiencing the effects of poor ergonomics on your health? Consult a doctor for guidance and support.
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At its core, ergonomics is a science-based discipline that aims to create designs and environments that enhance individuals’ comfort, safety, and efficiency. By understanding how humans interact with their surroundings, ergonomics seeks to develop solutions that reduce the risk of fatigue, discomfort, and injury, ultimately improving productivity and quality of life. Setting up a desk, chair, and computer monitor that promote proper posture and alignment can significantly help reduce the risk of eyesight problems and work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as back, neck, wrist, and shoulder pains.

(The article is written by Dr.Subita Alagh, Senior Executive, and reviewed by Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor)

1. Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Ergonomics. Available online:
2. American Optometric Association: Computer Vision Syndrome. Available online:
3. Jahangiri H, Kazemi R, Mokarami H, Smith A. Visual ergonomics, performance and the mediating role of eye discomfort: a structural equation modelling approach. Int J Occup Saf Ergon. 2022 Aug 29:1-5. Available online:
4. Pope MH, Goh KL, Magnusson ML. Spine ergonomics. Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2002;4:49-68. doi: 10.1146/annurev.bioeng.4.092101.122107. Epub 2002 Mar 22. Available online:
5. Magnus W, Viswanath O, Viswanathan VK, et al. Cervical Radiculopathy. [Updated 2022 Jul 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
6. Lassen CF, Mikkelsen S, Kryger AI, Brandt LP, Overgaard E, Thomsen JF, Vilstrup I, Andersen JH. Elbow and wrist/hand symptoms among 6,943 computer operators: a 1-year follow-up study (the NUDATA study). Am J Ind Med. 2004 Nov;46(5):521-33. Available online:


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