Office Ergonomics

According to WorkSafe Saskatchewan, office ergonomics is the process of identifying and adjusting items in your work environment so that you reduce the risk of injury or illness while performing office tasks.

Ergonomically-adjusted workstations help you avoid awkward positions and repetitive tasks that can lead to:

  • developing repetitive motion or strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome
  • increasing headaches
  • creating eyestrain
  • increasing neck and back pain

Steps to Assess Your Work Environment

Step 1. Discuss Options With Your Supervisor

If you are experiencing discomfort at your computer workstation, notify your supervisor to determine available options within your department (different chairs, keyboards, document holders, etc). Furniture and equipment purchases are the responsibility of your department.

  • Visit the Quick Pick Furniture List for more information on approved furniture options
  • Furniture and equipment purchases are the responsibility of your department
  • Chairs and ergonomic furniture owned by your department may be moved around to accommodate employees
  • Many approved items can also be procured through IT Acquisitions
An ergonomic consultation is not required to purchase approved office furniture.

Step 2. Adjust Your Own Workstation!

Sign up for Office Ergonomics Training. After completing the office ergonomics training, a short online course, you will be able to set up and adjust your own workstation.

Step 3. Refer to the Healthy Workstation Guide

Refer to our Healthy Workstation Guide to reinforce the information presented in the online course.

Step 4. Office Ergonomics Support

Tried everything above and still having issues? Contact the Ergonomics Support Team to review any concerns and determine the next steps.

An ergonomic consultation relies on the individual completing the online office ergonomics training.

Working Remotely Ergonomics

While you work from home, please consider the following options to support your home ergonomics:

1. Review Our Tools for Ergonomic Best Practices

Designate a workspace

  • Living room or bedroom are not ideal workspaces
  • Table height should be comfortable
  • Lighting should be adequate for work tasks

 

Use a sturdy chair

  • Use an office task chair, if you have one
  • Ensure your thighs are parallel to the floor
  • Use your backrest and keep your feet flat on the floor
  • For less supportive/non adjustable chairs use a cushion behind your low back to better support your lumbar spine.

 

Consider your computer/peripheral set-up

  • External monitor and keyboard is preferable over a laptop. If working from a laptop, ideally connect a separate monitor or keyboard/mouse, as laptops are otherwise difficult to set up in a reasonable fashion.
  • Keep monitor at eye level. Use books or whatever you have to block it up. Ideally approximately an arms length away.
  • Keyboard set up for as close to 90 degree at the elbow as possible, primarily to reinforce good wrist posture.  Kitchen table is reasonable. Keep arms/wrists neutral. 

 

Take breaks

Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes – without exception
  • Stand up, stretch, move around, change your posture, especially if you are dealing with an existing injury
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day – many people are chronically dehydrated, and this affects your musculoskeletal system and kidney function; water is the best, aim for 6 to 8 glasses a day
  • Get some sun and get some fresh air every day – and/or consider a daily Vitamin D supplement, as many people are chronically Vitamin D deficient, and this negatively affects our immune systems
  • Schedule your workday to allow for some time between tasks

If you need assistance or have concerns about your home workstation or help with handling pre-existing conditions, please contact Safety Resources.

Home workspaces are typically considered as low hazard work environments. However, sometimes people have limited options for setting up in their spaces which can lead to a musculoskeletal injury (MSI) if not addressed proactively. 

It is recommended that employees take a close look at their home workspace and correct any safety concerns as soon as possible.

Hazard Checklist

  • Electrical equipment (electrical and fire hazard) – such as printers, kettles, hot plates, microwaves, space heaters, etc. can cause fires if it is old or without auto shut-offs and left unattended; be conscious of the electrical load as well as inspecting cords and plugs for damage; and, immediately replace any damaged equipment
  • Power-bar use (fire hazard) – old power-bars do fail to age and daisy-chaining, not just from over-loading; any power bar over five (5) years old is a potential fire hazard and should be replaced; also, when you replace any power bar, you should write the date of replacement on it with a marker
  • Electrical or network cords crossing walkways or under chairs (physical MSI tripping hazard and possible electrical hazard) – keep all cords out of walkways and from around rolling chairs
  • Lack of general housekeeping and office organization (physical MSI and fire hazard) – examples: tall stacks of paper, abundance of combustible materials, obstructions in walkways or doorways, storage of unnecessary equipment, bicycles, etc. For cleaning at your home workspace, you can use a solution of 10% household bleach mixed with water
  • Furniture that is worn or not adjustable (ergonomic hazard or physical hazard) – chairs that do not adjust or do not have five castors, or tables with uneven legs should be replaced; remember to take short breaks every 30 minutes
  • Shelving or hutches that are not secured, are leaning or overloaded (physical hazard) – all shelves must be secured to the wall to prevent tipping; hutches must not be filled over capacity to prevent leaning or failure
  • Storage areas (physical MSI hazard) – when storing items ensure heavy items are stored at waist height for easiest retrieval (over 15 kg), moderately heavy items (5 to 15 kg) may be stored at ground level and only keep light items stored higher up; following this practice can eliminate possible injury
  • Home workspace maintenance – when working at home consider a few other things which could impact your home workspace, such as checking your smoke alarm batteries and furnace filters especially in the winter

If you require additional assistance please contact safetyresources@usask.ca or call 306-966-4675.

2. Incorporate as Much Movement Into Your Day as Possible

3. Review the Home Equipment and Supplies Standards

Discuss available furniture options with your direct supervisor

  • Existing office furniture may be moved from campus to your remote work location
  • Complete the Declaration of Property Used Off Campus and forward completed to your supervisor and our ergonomics support team
  • You will be escorted onto campus to retrieve furniture and you must be able to transport it home by yourself

Approved office furniture may be purchased by your department

4. Purchase Appropriate Home Office Furniture

Purchase desired equipment from your preferred supplier.

The university is planning to issue a Form T2200 - Declaration of Conditions of Employment for the 2020 taxation year to employees required to work from home.

You may be able to claim purchases for employment use of a workspace in their home as a tax deduction if you cannot use campus furniture or departmental funds.

5. Request an Ergonomic Consultation

Once you have your workstation set-up, ask our ergonomics support team about a virtual consultation using Microsoft Teams.

Office Stretches

Even with the best workstation equipment and setup, working for long periods at a computer can cause fatigue and discomfort. Doing a simple set of stretches can go a long way to alleviating fatigue and reducing muscle discomfort.

Manual Material Handling Ergonomics

Manual material handling can be described as work activities involve moving or handling loads by hand. These activities include:

  • Lifting and Lowering
    • floor to waist
    • waist to chest
    • chest to overhead o floor to overhead
    • or any combination thereof
  • Carrying
    • Unilateral (with one hand) o Bilateral (with both hands)
  • Pushing and Pulling
    • Dynamically – where the object being handled moves over a distance, (a cart or dolly for example)

Note: Moving very light items (less than 0.5 kg) is not generally considered material handling unless the task frequency is high.

Frequently Asked Questions

Review and select an item from the Quick Pick Furniture List and purchase directly from the supplier. Furniture and equipment purchases are the responsibility of your department.

  • If your total order is under $10,000, please place your order with a PCard.
  • If your furniture order is over $10,000 or contains items NOT found on the Quick Pick Furniture List, then please fill out the online form with details of your request.

For any questions regarding furniture purchases, please contact Facilities Support Services at facilities.support@usask.ca or (306) 966-4496.

An ergonomic consultation is not required to purchase approved office furniture.
Your chair should:
  • be reasonably modern
  • have ergonomic adjustment features available
  • be in working condition/good repair
Your desk should:
  • have room for your computer monitor and all of your working items (documents, telephone, etc.)
  • measure between 29 - 31" tall
  • allow room to move around your office
  • have a keyboard tray attached for proper positioning
Your computer should:
  • have adjustable monitors (height and desk position)
  • not just be a laptop (external monitors and keyboard/mouse recommended)
Your keyboard and mouse should:
  • fit on your keyboard tray
  • be suitable for your line of work (number pad accessible or removable)

Register for the online office ergonomics training and work through the steps to adjust every moving part on your chair.

User manual for your chair below:

  • Steelcase Leap Task Chair (video and PDF)
  • Haworth Zody Task Chair (PDF)
  • Herman Miller Mirra 2 Task Chair (video and PDF
  • Herman Miller Aeron Chair (video and PDF)
  • Teknion Projek Task Chair (PDF)

Keyboard trays are supplied and installed for free for employees of the University of Saskatchewan.

Contact Facilities online:

  • Select Request a Service
  • Select Repairs or Maintenance;
  • Fill in the blanks and state that you would like a keyboard tray supplied and installed

We encourage all employees to incorporate movement into their day, whether they are experiencing strain from sitting or not. An easy way to encourage this is to use a break-reminder app on your phone, or to install “stretchly” on your campus computer.

To install “stretchly”:

  • Open the “Software Centre” on your Windows desktop computer
  • Search for “stretchly”
  • Download and install

The app can be set to run when a person logs in and it will remind them to take breaks (5 minute breaks every 30 minutes) and micro-breaks (20+ second breaks every 10 minutes).

Getting help

Ergonomics Support Team 

Contact the Ergonomics Support Team if you require more information or have other ergonomic concerns. A team member will contact you to provide recommendations.

Safety Resources

150 Research Annex
105 Maintenance Road
Saskatoon SK S7N 5C5

 safetyresources@usask.ca
(306) 966-4675
 (306) 966-8394

 Safety Resources