Shared workstations are a reality in many workplaces today. From standard office computer workstations, to the health-care industry, to high-tech manufacturing, computers are an essential tool in nearly every business. In many of these settings, however, workstations can be shared by multiple users, resulting in a poor ergonomic fit for some.
Examples of situations requiring workstation sharing are shift work, job sharing, and part-time workers who fill in where they are needed on a given day. In some industrial situations, several workers may need to occasionally access a particular computer to perform a required task.
Providing a workstation that can effectively accommodate multiple employees should now be considered essential for efficient daily operations. But which employee do you set the workstation up for? Unless each worker assigned to a particular workstation is identical in stature, then at a minimum some basic adjustment differences are bound to occur. Issues such as poor monitor placement and keyboard location need to be addressed early in order to prevent serious musculoskeletal disorders.
The following guidelines should be considered for workstations shared by multiple users:
A monitor that is either too high or too low, or that is placed so that employees must twist their neck to view the screen, may cause problems at some point. The good news is that this is relatively easy to correct. Attaching the monitor to an articulating arm will allow each user to easily adjust the monitor distance and height with a fingertip touch, so that it fits them correctly. Proper position will allow the user to maintain an upright head/neck position with the top of the monitor screen located close to eye level. Find out more about optimal monitor placement.
Keyboard and mouse position
Placement which is too high or too low can result in wrist deviation (bent-wrist position), which may cause symptoms of tendonitis or in extreme cases, carpal tunnel syndrome. A well-designed articulating keyboard tray can help resolve this issue, much like the monitor arm, by providing the user with an easy-to-adjust platform wide enough for both the keyboard and mouse. Proper keyboard and mouse position will allow the user to work with their wrists straight and their forearms roughly parallel to the floor, with elbows close to their sides.
Almost all office chairs have basic adjustments, such as seat pan height and lumbar support adjustment. What is sometimes overlooked is how easy or difficult it is to make these two adjustments to a particular chair. A chair being used by multiple employees should fit all of them reasonably well. Each user should be trained on how to make any of the available adjustments as well as how to use the chair to obtain a good, neutral fit with the workstation. Ideally, the chair position should allow the user to sit with their feet comfortably flat on the floor. Find out more about choosing an office chair.
Training is an important element in the overall ergonomic picture. Ensuring that affected employees understand about each of the above three adjustments, and then encouraging them to make these adjustments every time they sit down to start their work day, will go a long way toward preventing computer-related injuries, no matter the type of workplace.