Ergonomic Travel Tips
What is Ergonomics? Ergonomics comes from the Greek works “ergos” meaning work and “nomos” meaning natural law. Ergonomics is essentially fitting the task to the worker and the product to the user. The benefits of ergonomics include improved comfort and productivity as well as reduced injuries and illnesses. Ergonomics is important in offices, industrial areas, and even away from work.
A lot of attention has been devoted to the occurrence of cumulative trauma
disorders like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendinitis among computer users. Typing
at a computer for extended periods of time requires a lot of repetitive motions,
which can be stressful if not performed in a neutral posture. The most
effective way to reduce ergonomic stressors is to create a healthy work environment. Since
every person is different and office environments vary, it would be difficult
to go through a detailed explanation of how to best adjust your office. Instead
we recommend a good guide- “Creating the Ideal Computer Workstation: A
Step-by-Step Guide” developed by the Department of Defense Ergonomics Working
Group which can be downloaded at:
You should take the time to go through this guide and make any possible adjustments to your workstation. You may need assistance in adjusting your chair or taking measurements, so it’s a good idea to partner up.
There’s a lot of information out there on how to set up your office, but not nearly enough on how you get to your office. So here’s a few tips.
Tips for the Road Warriors
Sitting in your car for extended periods of time places strain on your back and decreases circulation, which can result in pain and discomfort.
- Adjust your seat as close to the steering wheel as is comfortable so that your knees and elbows are bent, and you can easily operate the steering wheel and pedals without reaching. With your hands in the 2:00/10:00 position, your hands should be below shoulder height and your arms should be less than fully extended. (If you are below 5’4” in stature and have an inflatable driver side air bag, always maintain a 10” distance from the source of deployment)
- Be sure to support the lumbar area of your back. You can do this with a small cushion or tightly wrapped towel. Remind yourself to lean against the backrest instead of leaning into the steering wheel.
- Don’t despair those red lights- use the time to loosen those muscles. You can stretch your neck by pulling your chin to your chest and rotating your head side to side and down to your shoulders. Also try rotating your shoulders and making a fist and releasing.
- Avoid “pain in the butt” by taking all items out of your back pocket!
- If your back hurts while driving you might want to take a rest stop break and go for a short walk (Note: Chinese Firedrills are not endorsed exercise)
- Stress adds to muscle tension so be sure to give yourself enough time to get to work.
Tips for the Global Traveler
We all know airline seats are not designed for comfort, but a few tips can help reduce your discomfort at the end of the flight.
- Good luggage makes a big difference. Look for lightweight, durable luggage with extending handles and good wheels.
- Plan your packing so you don’t take unnecessary items, which can weigh your luggage down.
- If you have items with shoulder straps such as a laptop computer or garment bag, be sure the strap is wide and padded to disperse mechanical stress to the shoulder. Alternate shoulders to distribute the load. Walk with an upright posture. Don’t let your luggage pull you to one side.
- If you can, check your luggage. This eliminates carrying bags during layovers and reaching to load overhead bins onboard.
- Bring a small, lightweight carry-on bag to prop your feet on. This will help keep blood from pooling in your feet during flight. This is particularly important if your feet do not rest comfortably on the floor. Taking a “walk” during flight also helps promote blood flow and decrease muscle strain.
- Place a small pillow or blanket in the lumbar region of your back to help reduce back strain.
- If you have a tendency to fall asleep with head on your shoulder, use a pillow. Those “U-shaped” travel pillows that fit around your neck can also help.
- If you use a laptop during flight, try placing it on a pillow on your lap. For most people the pull-down tray is located at a height much higher than their seated elbow height, which causes awkward hand and wrist postures while typing.
Helping to make your laptop experience a more comfortable one. Laptop computers, unlike desktop units, lack the ability to adjust the keyboard and screen independently. This, in addition to other factors, can force the user to endure awkward and unhealthy postures, which can lead to short- and long-term discomfort.
Posture is key. The environments in which laptops are often used (hotels, cars and planes) are seldom designed for work and can place the body in awkward and strenuous positions. When working on a table, make sure the laptop screen is high enough so that you don’t have to tilt your neck down to view the screen. Conversely, when working at a desk you may need to sit on a telephone book or pillow to allow your forearms, wrists and hands to work in the desired position – parallel to the floor. Roll up towels for lumbar support and use phone books as footrests.
Prop docs. Source documents placed flat on a desk also cause awkward neck postures. Prop source documents up so they are at an angle similar to reading a magazine. When space is limited, plan on doing work that does not require a source document.
In airplanes, raise the armrests when possible to give arms freedom of movement. If the armrests cannot be moved, place pillows under the computer to where the laptop and armrests are the same height.
Breaks are essential. The virtual office present fewer opportunities for interaction, so frequent breaks should be a high priority for laptop users. Stretching relaxes muscles and promotes blood flow so every 15-20 minutes get up and move around the room or do stretching exercises while remaining seated, such as; shake out hands and arms, spread fingers, turn neck from side to side, roll shoulders forward and then backward several times.
Be kind to your eyes. Try not to sit with the laptop too close to you (increase the font size if needed to view the screen at a greater distance.) Minimize glare by shielding outside light or by tilting the screen of your computer. give your eyes a break every 15-20 minutes by closing them or looking off in the distance
Ease hand and finger tension. Substitute an external plug-in mouse whenever possible to avoid the precise, limited motion required for the small and constricting trackball or touch pad. Avoid pounding on the keys when typing.
Lighten the load. A final risk is the hazard associated with carrying the weight of the computer around. All too often we load ourselves down with unnecessary computer peripherals, battery chargers and additional electronic devices such as pagers and cellular phones. Carry only what is essential and utilize wheels to take the weight off shoulders, arms, and lower back.
Stay fit. Sitting all day should be balanced with more vigorous activity. Regular exercise can benefit your posture, circulation, concentration, and relieve stress
The internet is full of information sites- here’s a few of interest:
- CTDNews is a current source of ergonomics in the news at www.ctdnews.com
- Ergoweb has news, discussions, and product information at www.ergoweb.com
- Alimed has a large variety of ergonomic products at www.alimed.com
- OSHA’s web page has case studies and legal information at www.osha-slc.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/
- NIOSH has many free publications and research information at www.cdc.gov/niosh/ergopage.html
- For more information, please contact the Navy Ergonomics Program.: Cathy Rothwell (RothwellCB@efdsw.navfac.navy.mil)