What is Computer Ergonomics?

Computers & Technology

  • Author David Mcarthur
  • Published August 13, 2019
  • Word count 992

Computer ergonomics is the discipline of matching the task to the worker using the most appropriate equipment to optimise human well being and overall performance.

This can be simplified to "Modify the workplace, not the individual". In order to provide the best working environment for your staff you must first have an understanding of the products and solutions that are now available in Australia and their applications in the workplace.


A fully ergonomic chair has height and angle adjustability for both the back and the seat. This is ideally operated by a three lever system providing the user with independent seat height, seat angle and back angle adjustments. For back height it is preferable to have a locking back, rather than the moving ratchet style, as once adjusted to the correct position it is locked into place to suit the individuals needs. Chairs should be on a 5-point star base with the appropriate castors. Usually when given the job of selecting `the most appropriate chair for the workplace’ the purchaser will try to source the most ergonomic chair within the budget provided on a one size fits all basis.

The market is experiencing a change in these trends as those responsible learn more about the productivity benefits of providing fully adjustable ergonomic chairs. If you need to buy chairs for 50 people for instance, try lining them up from tallest to shortest (literally or figuratively!). This will give you an indication of the range of seat pan depths required. Without the correct seat depth there are potential dangers for both the short and tall members of your staff.

We recommend trialling three different size seat pans in order to establish the correct ratio of chairs in the workplace. Over 50 chairs we would normally expect 10 large, 25 medium and 15 small although this obviously changes depending on the makeup of the workforce. Shorter people may require a footrest whereas those of taller stature can sometimes benefit from a larger gas lift for increased seat height.

It is the employers duty of care to provide the correct equipment to their staff and the correct size chair is essential to anyone who does office based work.

Monitor Arms

At the back of most standard flat screen monitors is a VESA plate which allows for the easy attachment of a Monitor Arm. Monitor Arms were primarily used for height adjustment with the older style CRT monitors however with the much lighter and manoeuvrable flat panel monitors users are finding a lot more benefits. With the Monitor Arm clamp or grommet (through the desk) mounted to your desk the immediate work area is increased which helps eliminate to neck problems. Another major difference is angle and depth adjustability is now at fingertip control. As our bodies and eyes tire towards the end of the day we tend to lean forward creating postural problems for the neck and back. A monitor arm provides the solution through its easy adjustment. Studies are also reporting users finding it much easier to share information with colleagues with the screen on a move-able arm.


Mouse selection is about combining the individuals hand size and task with their preferred method of mousing. With the range of styles now available it is important to have an understanding of the ergonomics behind them. Vertical mouses such as the Evoluent mouse or EZ vertical mouse are used to eliminate rotation of the wrist.

Trackballs like the Kensington Orbit Trackball operate by moving the ball as opposed to physically moving the mouse. The Contour Rollermouse Pro 3 is a centralised bilateral mouse that can address multiple computer related injuries at the same time. This is because it is so conceptually different from a conventional mouse. It eliminates the reach and grip issues associated with mousing and encourages the individual to use both hands thus sharing the workload.

Laptop Ergonomics

One area that causes a great deal of concern among health professionals is the incorrect use of laptops. There is no denying the portability benefits of laptops however they have many shortcomings from an ergonomic point of view. The main problem is the lack of independent movement between the keyboard and monitor. With no adjustment available users have to compromise their head, neck and body position in order to actually use the product. Would you set up the monitor and keyboard for your desktop computer in the same configuration as your laptops predetermined working position? This problem can be simply solved by providing a laptop stand with an external keyboard and mouse. The monitor can now be positioned at the correct working height and the individual can use their preferred mouse and keyboard instead of the laptop’s.

Sit Stand Desks

The human body was not meant to sit or stand for extended periods of time so ideally we should alternate between the two positions during the course of the working day. This variation in movement helps to reduce the amount of stress put on the back and promotes stretching and blood circulation throughout the body. This is achieved by using an electric sit/stand desk. As the height is adjusted by the touch of a button the operator can easily adjust the desk height between different tasks like typing and writing as well as moving between sitting and standing. Ergonomists have been proving the benefits of this technology for the last decade but until recently it has been cost prohibitive.

Electric sit/stand desks have come down significantly in price over the past decade. A good quality, standard size electric standing desk now retails for around the $600 mark. Sit/Stand Desks are the ideal solution for any shared workstation be it a call centre or reception and also for any individual with back problems. With the emergence of standing desk risers allowing users to convert their existing fixed height desks into sit stand desks, the benefits of alternating between sitting and standing are now accessible to just about everyone.

David McArthur is the Managing Director of Ausergo and has over 15 years experience in office ergonomics.



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