Ask the Experts: When the Office Comes to You

Office Ergonomics August 20, 2020

Ask the Experts: When the Office Comes to You follow up questions with Jamie McGaha, OT

We’re following up on our wildly successfuly “When the Office Comes to You” Webinar with Jamie McGaha. Due to record attendance and a highly engaged crowd we were unable to address everyone’s questions during the live presentation. If you missed Jamie’s awesome webinar you can view it here: https://thebackschool.net/online-courses/webinars/ask-the-experts-when-the-office-comes-to-you

Note that some of the questions will reference images and topics directly covered in the webinar.

Ask the Experts: When the Office Comes to You

We’ll jump right into the Q and A below:

  • “How is knee below the hip a faulty posture Please explain dynamics”
    • The general rule for hip to knee ratio is the same level or around 90-90. There are always variances of neutral depending on the person and environment. These variances are not extremes of positioning, but should maintain the principles of neutral.  If the hip is significantly above or below hip height it will either increase or decrease the angle of hip flexion, cause the pelvis to tilt more posteriorly or anteriorly and the lumbar curvature then to increase in flexion or extension. Depending on the degree of that angle, increased stress is then transferred through the hip/pelvis/spine as they struggle to counter the hip to knee angle and ratio. Keeping the hip and knee more level and alignment allows for more natural pelvic tilt and lumbar curvature for less risk of discomfort.
  • What are your thoughts on using a headrest?
    • If it’s useful for you and keeps you in “your neutral” posture. I often find very tall individuals benefit from them or are in need of them due to lack of further upper back rest or height adjustments.
  • In the picture her elbows are resting on the arm rests, when its known that we are not supposed to rest our elbows on any surface.
    • There is a big different between being fully supported to maintain an aligned position vs resting or placing contact stress on a specific area of the body. Arm rests can be useful if they assist the person in maintain a relaxed shoulder and upper body position and maintain the forearm fully supported to the desk surface. They can also be useful for intermittent use, such as to rest the arms in a supported ergonomic position while reading a document on the computer. Unfortunately, many arm rests do not assist individuals in maintaining a relaxed posture of the shoulder, elbow and wrist and do not keep the person at the same level at their desk height. Many arm rests also cut people off awkwardly, placing significant contact pressure at the forearm level or causing extra contract stress when they attempt to type and “rest”. I will often remove or not use arm rests if the adjustable features do not assist in maintaining a neutral wrist, forearm and elbow alignment or create contact stress. I will also remove them if they interfere with being at the appropriate desk height or if they are too wide and do not allow a person to maintain a relaxed shoulder to elbow posture. I find people “float” their wrists and do rest while they type if they maintain a good upper body posture, if the arm rests don’t aid in that you certainly do not have to use them, I often remove them. If your positioning is adjusted properly, your upper body will support you! No arms fall off without arm restsJ
  • Would it be better to go for a quick walk when standing if feeling lower back discomfort as opposed to using a footrest to alternate stance? The body is asking for a shift in weight to reduce the stagnant posture and weight compressed onto  the lower back. I feel that by providing a footrest it keeps the client in a certain posture longer than the body is signaling is safe and comfortable.
    • MOVE MORE is always the answer to me. Great idea. We should always be aware of any ergonomic adjustment creating a change in behavior, we are all only human. If someone has gotten very “comfy” and enjoys being able to stand and shift weight, wonderful, but it doesn’t replace taking a good movement or “ergo” break every 30 min or at least hourly. If you have time to walk, it’s encouraged.
  • What if we don’t have an adjustable chair?
    • Sometimes this is the case especially at home. Dining room chairs feel good for about 30 min. Depending upon the needs of your home set up and the needs of your body, adding a chair cushion or a lumbar support cushion may do the trick. If the issue is lack of height adjustment and there is no additional cushioning to increase chair height or possible way increased desk surface height, we may need to look at other areas of the home to see if a standing surface is possible to use or if the chair fits a different height counter or table than the currently used one. A remote assessment would be recommended if one could not find a comfortable working position and had already tried these options.
  • How does having a negative tilt on the keyboard effect neutral posture for arms when standing?
    • If you have a slight negative tilt in your keyboard tray when seated to maintain a balance between the load of the wrist flexors and extensors that’s awesome and especially good for those who use top keys often on the keyboard. Just remember when you move to a standing height, you do need to re-assess your position and adjust accordingly, but the principles of maintaining your neutral posture would be the same. It may require you to make the tilt of the tray slightly more neutral and/or change the height of the tray slightly to keep the elbows relaxed and the wrists neutral. I would just ensure when standing you do not overly negatively tilt the keyboard and cause the wrists to flex down or the elbows to be too extended or too low.
  • What is the reference for the 80:20 sit to stand ratio durantion?
  • Advice regarding computer glasses
    • Make sure you’ve had a recent eye exam. Reduce glare if possible. If you are prone to visual fatigue and/or use bifocals/trifocals, I do recommend you take frequent visual breaks. 20-20-20 Rule, look 20 ft away for 20 sec every 20 min.
  • Is it bad to rest your feet on rolling chair legs?
    • It’s certainly not something your body will find comfortable overtime. Lack of stable foot support requires the body to work harder through the pelvis and spine to maintain a stable base, this makes your muscles work harder too. Your upper body then compensates for lack of base support and it works harder too. The body would stay more relaxed and supported if the feet were in contact with the ground assisting in maintaining a neutral supported posture.
  • Based on the body of research and that is available about the dangers of sedentism, how would you feel about changing the 80:20 rule to be standing (80%) to sitting (20%), not sitting (80) to standing (20)?
    • Alan Hedges 80-20 rule for sit-stand workstations can certainly be tailored to individual person needs. He openly states the most important thing is keeping a healthy and active employee. The “rule” below is a guideline:

“20 minutes sitting (in a good posture), 8 minutes standing (for sit-stand workstations) and 2 minutes of standing and moving”

  • finding many companies are letting employees buy chairs for home but limited budget ($150- $250). Any particular reommendations
    • Check out a few of these TBS resources to help in your decision:
    • And check out the archives of TBS blog posts, several have been done on specific chairs
  • Don’t armrests fail to give “free arm hang” to [prevent raised shoulders and tension inthe upper shoulder musculature?
    • See above for arm rest answer
  • How about the Swiss ball chair or the semi kneeling posture chairs?
    • They are out there. In general, they are not my recommendation due to significant potential for safety issues. I am going to link 2 excellent TBS blog posts on these types of chairs.
  • What is your opinion on orange tint glasses (Alan Hedge from Cornell) to counteract blue monitor glare
    • I haven’t actually tried them so I don’t feel I can say personally. The evidence is there to say it blocks it, however the American Academy of Ophthalmology says we really don’t need to worry about blocking “blue light” specifically.
  • treadmill desk ?
    • No in my book. The safety concerns are glaring, get a sit-stand and move more.
  • what foot rests do you suggest and why?
    • I never recommend just one product or a specific brand, I haven’t tried them all and there are too many out there. A foot rest that gives you adequate height for the support your need whether you are seated or standing and if needed the correct angle. I’ll include a few in no order:
      • Fellowes Standard Footrest
      • VIVO Black Ergonomic Height Adjustable Standing Foot Rest Relief Platform for Standing Desks
      • HUANUO Adjustable Under Desk Footrest – Ergonomic Foot Rest with 3 Height Position 
  • My favorite vertical mouse model is no longer available. What are some sources for obtaining a vertical mouse?
    • Darn! see a few links below to help decide on a new one.
  • Many people were asking for research around the 80/20 rule
    • See above link to CUergo

Have other questions for Jamie? Sound off in the comments below!


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