What Is Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the scientific study of people at work. The goal of ergonomics is to create jobs, tools, equipment, and workplaces that fit people, rather than making people adapt to fit them. An important part of ergonomics is making sure that the demands of the job do not go beyond what a worker can do safely. When ergonomics is considered at work or in your study environment, your workspace can be safer and a healthy place. To learn more about ergonomics and how it affects your ability to work and study, visit the Washington State Labor and Industries ergonomics awareness webpage.

Improve Your Ergonomics


Stretching at workStretch your arms, legs, wrists and back when you have time. Repetitive motion from some tasks can create problems, such as muscle cramps, or carpal tunnel syndrome in your wrists and forearms. Stretching could help to keep muscles loose and prevent cramps, or other problems.

You can perform stretching exercises, take frequent rest breaks, wear splints to keep wrists straight and use correct posture and wrist position. Wearing fingerless gloves can help keep hands warm and flexible.

Check your homework desk or area and redesign it to enable your wrists to maintain a natural position during work. Look at adapting your space to help limit conditions that contribute to wrist problems.

Adapted from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Check Your Posture

Good posture at computerAwkward postures are usually repeated or prolonged reaching, twisting, bending, working overhead, kneeling, squatting, and holding fixed positions. They may affect various areas of the body such as the hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, back, and knees. The effects of awkward postures are worse if work tasks also involve repetitive motions or forceful exertions. Awkward postures may be caused by using poorly designed or arranged workstations, tools, and equipment and poor work practices.

Posture affects which muscle groups are active during physical activity. Awkward postures can make work tasks more physically demanding, by increasing the exertion required from smaller muscle groups and preventing the stronger, larger muscle groups from working at maximum efficiencies. The increased exertion from the weaker, smaller muscle groups impairs blood flow and increases the rate of fatigue.

Adapted from Ergonomics and Your Workplace

Think About Workspace Set Up

Check your workspace | image of office spaceLighting

Sometimes bad lighting can contribute to eye strain and fatigue. For example, when the lighting is bad, the work is too far away, or materials are blocking the field of vision, you might have to move in a way to use better lighting. Consider your workspace lighting before beginning a project or studying. 

Adapted from Ergonomics and Your Workplace 

Computer Station Footrest

Do your feet rest flat on the floor? Your footrest should be adjustable in height and inclination so it does not restrict leg movement. It should be easy to remove and about as wide as your hips and large enough to support the soles of both of your feet. The footrest slope should respond to the movement of your ankle and alters slightly in height as your foot moves. This allows some leg and foot movement that may help counteract the effects of sitting. If you do not have a footrest a quick temporary fix could including using old phone books or binders. A footrest can also help reduce swelling in lower legs. A footrest might also help improve posture and reduce leg fatigue.

Adapted from U.S. Army Public Health Command

Desk Arrangement

If your connection to your work is through your hands think about desktop placement. Place equipment on and around your desk so that when you perform routine tasks your shoulders are relaxed, your upper arms are close to your body, and your forearms and wrists are parallel to the floor. Consider your keyboard, mouse, and monitor placements are appropriately in front of you so you don’t have to twist your body or neck.