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Despite the many laws and regulations concerning working conditions, most remote office workstations are not ergonomically designed. This article posts a summarized manual for making your remote workstation more comfortable and productive because there really is a definite relationship between comfort and productivity.
Improving comfort at a workstation will result in a 10% increase in productivity (Vink and De Korte, 2008). This fact alone is reason enough to take a closer look at the design of your remote workstation. This document examines the eight most important aspects of your remote workstation while incorporating the requirements of legislation (EU) so that you will also be complying with working conditions legislation.
The working height of a conventional desk should be adjustable, preferably to at least between 24 to 33 inches (60 and 82 cm). For a sit-stand desk, this should be from 24 to 50 inches (60 to 125 cm) with a minimum range of 25 to 48 inches (62 to 120 cm). The height of the desk should be adjusted to elbow height or just above elbow height. A sit-stand desk is preferable to a conventional desk.
A work surface measuring 24-33 inches (60-82 cm) can be used by at least 90% of its users. Sit-stand desks can contribute to a higher level of work comfort, especially with regard to relieving back complaints. The changes in working position when using a sit-stand desk as opposed to a conventional desk also appear to increase concentration that results in a 10% increase in productivity (Choi, 2010). It is important, however, that employees not stand for too long since this could lead to even more discomfort in the back and legs. As a general rule, employees should not stand any longer than they sit at a sit-stand desk, and they should sit for at least 15 minutes at a time.
To allow employees to really use a sit-stand desk properly, it would be advisable to have them use an easily adjustable, electrically adjustable model and for them to participate in an instructional workshop (Wilks, 2006). Software programs can be effective in giving employees training in using a sit-stand desk and reminding them of when to sit and stand.
When a work surface is not adjustable in height (or cannot be adjusted sufficiently for the user), a footrest is sometimes required. This footrest must be at least 18 inches (45 cm) wide and 14 inches (35 cm) deep, must have an adjustable range of at least 4.5 inches (11 cm ), and the slope of the support surface must be adjustable from at least 5 to 15 degrees. For flexible workstations, it is important to provide footrests that can be adjusted quickly and easily.
The backrest of a chair with a synchronous mechanism tilts in a ratio of 1:2, 1:3, or 1:4 in relationship to the seat so that the seat will not tilt sufficiently enough in the relationship to the backrest (Bos, 2003). This flexes the back to a greater extent which can result in greater discomfort in the back and legs. The angle of the backrest of a chair with a tilting mechanism can be adjusted separately from the seat to keep the angle between the seat and backrest (which is tilted slightly backward) at around 90°.
There are indications that providing ergonomic chairs that meet the previously mentioned recommendations increase working comfort (Van Niekerk, et al, 2012). However, the deciding factor in assuring increased work comfort by means of an ergonomic chair is the provision of a training session about ergonomic principles and how the chair can be adjusted (Amick, et al, 2003; Menendez, et al, 2012).
When working with the computer, the user’s arms must be properly supported by comfortable, height-adjustable armrests, by the desk surface, or by an armrest attached to the desk surface. The arms should be supported at elbow height or a little higher and combined with a sitting position that also allows the arms to hang in a relaxed position next to the body. Effective arm support will decrease strain in the neck and shoulder region. This will result in greater work comfort, the prevention of neck and shoulder complaints, and a quicker recovery from existing complaints (Rempel, et al, 2006).
It is advisable to place documents between the keyboard and display screen to prevent neck rotation. A sloping work surface reduces flexion of the neck and thus increases work comfort.
A 19-inch screen provides greater work comfort than screens of smaller dimensions because this larger screen results in less flexion of the neck (Sommerich, et al, 2001). The resolution of a display screen indicates the number of pixels used in constructing it: the greater the resolution (number of pixels), the sharper the image. The downside to this, however, is that a screen of the same size with high resolution leads to smaller characters on the screen. The size of the pixels on the screen is also expressed in the pixel pitch which should be no smaller than 0.25 mm and preferably larger than 0.28 mm.
The other most important specifications:
Research shows that it is possible to increase productivity by 10-15% and reduce errors by 33% with the use of two or more screens (Colvin, et al, 2004). Achieving these goals, however, also means adjusting the screens properly to limit the adverse effect of neck rotation. In using large screens, it is important to create a sufficient distance between the user and the screens. This makes flatscreen arms a practical solution.
The viewing distance is determined by the character size, whereby the viewing distance should be 150 times the character size (a character size of 4 mm therefore corresponds to a viewing distance of 60 cm/24 inches).
A relatively large viewing distance results in less eye strain, because the eyes do not need to accommodate as much. Moving the screen farther from the viewer, however, also means that the characters on the screen will have to be enlarged proportionally. The characters on the screen can sometimes be enlarged. Word, for example, has a zoom function that allows the characters displayed in the active document to be made larger or smaller. Larger characters are read faster than small ones.
The complete display screen must be positioned in an area that is 10-20° below eye level. A monitor in this position reduces eye strain in general because it allows the eyes to accommodate and converge better. Also important: productivity is increased by around 10% at the same time (Sommerich, et al, 1998).
While legislation stipulates that a screen should be adjustable to suit the needs of the user, the adjustability of a laptop screen is very limited. Adjusting the height of a laptop screen requires the use of a notebook stand. A notebook stand has a beneficial effect on neck posture and helps to increase work comfort (Boersma, 2003; Lindblad, 2003).
The study of Lindblad also showed that working with a BakkerElkhuizen notebook stand and a separate mouse and keyboard increases productivity by 17% (Lindblad, 2003). To enhance work comfort even more, it would be advisable to combine a 19-inch screen with the laptop when engaging in VDU work for more than two hours a day (Sommerich, et al, 2001).
The mouse should be kept as close to the user’s body as possible (right next to the keyboard). If entering numbers is seldom done, using a compact keyboard could be considered since this places the mouse closer to the user’s body.
Using a mouse results in a high level of strain, particularly on the lower arm, and, if placed far from the body, it puts additional strain on the neck and shoulder region. Using a vertical mouse that tilts the lower arm outward reduces strain on the lower arm and thus contributes to increased work comfort (Chen & Leung, 2007). Unlike other mice, the roller mouse is positioned directly in front of the user and can thus contribute to work comfort (Lin, et al, 2015).
Another way to reduce mouse use is simply to use more shortcut keys, but getting used to using them is usually difficult.
A separate keyboard should be used when working on a laptop for more than two hours a day. The horizontal and vertical distances between the keys should be at least 19 mm. The user must receive clear tactile and/ or audible feedback on the keys when typing. Using a compact keyboard reduces the reaching distance to the mouse. For those who use touch typing, a split keyboard improves the position of the wrists and lower arms.
The ISO 9241-410 guideline for keyboards requires that keyboards provide good tactile feedback (counterpressure) and good auditory feedback. The keys must also be at least 19 mm apart.
An example of a keyboard that does not meet these criteria is the standard keyboard on a tablet. It takes much longer to type on a tablet than on a conventional keyboard (Chaparro, 2010). A tablet provides neither of these kinds of feedback while typing. Keyboards with a tension mechanism provide better tactile and auditory feedback than keyboards with a membrane mechanism. In addition, dark characters printed on light-colored keys provide more contrast than white characters printed on black keys. This results in a higher typing speed among 80% of users.
Compact keyboards (keyboards without a numeric section but with a distance between the keys which is similar to a conventional keyboard) reduce the reaching distance to the mouse, reduce strain on the shoulder and lower arm, and are perceived as more comfortable than conventional keyboards (Van Lingen, 2003). A compact keyboard is a fully functional alternative to a conventional keyboard. If numerical data have to be entered frequently, a separate numeric section can be used.
An ergonomically shaped keyboard, in which the keys are placed at varying heights in a gable angle, and in which the right and left sections of the keyboard are placed at a slight angle from each other, can contribute to the prevention of physical symptoms (Rempel, et al, 2009; Moore and Swanson, 2003) because this improves the position of the lower arms and wrists.
GroWrk helps companies equip their remote workforce with ease. The starting point of a robust remote work policy is to ensure that an employee is able to perform his or her work comfortably, healthily, and efficiently wherever he or she works. People come first in everything that GroWrk does. To learn more about how GroWrk can help your team work better remotely, learn more here.