If your workstation includes an “L-shaped” desk, you may be positioned in the corner of the two desks, where your computer is located. Often one desk is designated for paper work and the other is chaired for coworkers or client interactions. Many of you would say this is how the workstation was set up when you were assigned the office space and so that is how it has remained. There are a few ergonomic risks that exist for employees who are positioned in the corner of two desks that I wanted to share:
1. The armrests on your chair most likely hit the front edge of the desks as you approach the corner to do your computer work. I have met many people that have removed their armrests, so they don’t interfere with positioning the chair closer to the corner of the desks. Without arm rests your upper back and shoulders do more work supporting your arms and by mid-day your body is fatiguing, posture is compromised and discomfort sets in.
2. If your armrests are still in place you probably are not able to get close enough to your keyboard and mouse on the desk surface, requiring you to reach to access those tools. This forward reach causes discomfort between your shoulder blades, upper back and shoulders.
3. Further discomfort in the corner position can be caused by your chair being positioned too low in relation to the desk. The lower you are seated, the more shoulder shrugging, elbow abduction (away from the body) that is demonstrated. This awkward positioning results in upper back, shoulder and neck discomfort.
Quick Fixes and Cautions:
DO NOT REMOVE YOUR ARMRESTS. These accessories are required to support your forearms and allow your shoulders to relax while you work and should be positioned at a height so your elbows are bent at 90 degrees.
Ask for a “Corner Creator” which is a flat piece of plastic or metal and sits on the desk surface between the two desks to create a straight edge. The keyboard and mouse are positioned close to the front edge of this Corner Creator and will allow you to move your chair closer to these devices without interference from your armrests or without having to reach to your keyboard.
If you can, reposition your computer, keyboard and mouse to the straight edge of one of the two desks, (you may need longer computer cords from IT). Working at this straight edge will allow you to get closer to your work, prevent reaching and the resulting discomforts.
Marnie Courage, OT Reg. (MB)