There are many health hazards in the office that you might not be aware of. One of these is repetitive typing, particularly when your posture and typing ergonomics are wrong. This can cause repetitive strain injury, which occurs when the prolonged performance of repetitive actions leads to pain or impairment of function in the tendons and muscles. Typing ergonomics can help prevent injury and pain caused by repetitive typing.
On this page, we will cover the following topics:
Common symptoms of repetitive strain injury due to typing include the following:
Ergonomics is the science of finding an ideal fit between people and the work they do. Applied to typing, it focuses on preventing common workplace injuries such as strains, stress and damage of joints caused by typing. The ergonomics of typing looks at the correct set up of desk equipment as well as posture and how to correctly type at a desk. The goal of typing ergonomics is to reduce the strain, stress and wear and tear of your joints as you type.
According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration Statistics, about 95% of an office worker’s day is spent in front of the computer, typing and using the mouse. You may not realise that your wrists are in the wrong position until you start experiencing wrist pain. Similarly, you may not notice how much you are straining your neck and shoulders until you begin to feel pain. To prevent these injuries from occurring, it is important to get the following typing ergonomics factors correct:
To prevent injury, you should keep your wrists in a neutral position, rather than bent up or down. The following image demonstrates the correct wrist placement when typing:
According to experts, a keyboard should be placed just below elbow level. Your keyboard should be flat on the desk, or gently sloping away from you. Your elbows should be in an open angle, at 90-110 degrees. This is designed to relax your forearms and shoulders. If possible, an ergonomic keyboard should be used to achieve a negative tilt. This means the keyboard will be sloping down and away from you, so your arms and hand follow the downward slope of your thighs. You should position your keyboard so your elbows and arms remain as close to your sides as possible. Your arms should sit at or below a 90-degree angle.
The following image demonstrates the correct keyboard placement when typing:
Ergonomic keyboards that are designed to make typing as comfortable as possible. They prevent the user from developing repetitive muscle strains and injuries. For two-handed typists, they are usually constructed in a V shape, allowing a more natural angle for typing.
You can read about the different types of ergonomic keyboards here.
Your feet should be flat on the floor. If your feet do not reach the floor, or this is not possible, you should get a foot rest. You should also keep your back straight while sitting at the desk with your back fully touching the chair. Try not to lean forward while you are working, as this can cause neck and back injury. The diagram below demonstrates the correct office posture when sitting.
It is possible to strain your eyes by putting your face too close to a screen. Additionally, neck injuries can occur if the monitor is placed in an awkward angle or too far from your eye level. Your eyes should be level with the top of your computer monitor. The below image demonstrates the correct monitor placement to your eye level.
A monitor arm can help ensure your computer is placed at the correct eye level for you. To avoid putting your health at risk, it is important to place your monitor at the most ideal height, angle and distance for your needs.
The mouse should be positioned so it keeps your arms at or below a 90-degree angle. Your hand should not be straining, nor should it feel uncomfortable during use. The image below demonstrates how a hand should be placed comfortably on the mouse:
The following are common typing ergonomics mistakes that can cause injury and pain:
Leaning on the heel of your hand or wrist can overstretch the nerve in your carpal tunnel.
Not moving your joints enough or taking frequent breaks can cause injury to the hands and wrists. It can also cause muscles to become stiff. If you have existing wrist pain, taking frequent breaks is important to alleviate wrist pain.
Sit-stand workstations can encourage more movement throughout the day, reducing pain and injury. You can purchase our Active Electric Sit Stand Workstation here.
Injuries can occur if the mouse isn’t on the same level as the keyboard. If the keyboard is lower than the mouse, this can cause strain
Pressing down too hard on the keyboard can cause fingertips to become sore. Typing gently can decrease the risk of injury and pain.
Your hands and wrists should be in line with your forearms. If you work while standing, ensure your work surface is at waist height.
If you are experiencing severe aches and pains, we recommend talking to your GP. You can also visit a massage therapist to help with aches and pains in the joints and muscles. They may also recommend specific exercises you can practise to help with the pain and stiffness.
Ensure your wrists are not pointing up or down. They should be in a neutral position, with the thumb in line with the forearm. If you feel like are still straining or uncomfortable, you can get a wrist rest for extra support.
If you are unsure on how to practise correct typing ergonomics, an occupational therapist can teach how to perform repetitive tasks more safely and pain-free. If you experience inflammation or flare up, placing an ice pack on the skin can help this problem. Ice should not be applied directly on the skin, so ensure you hold the ice inside a flannel or tissue.
You can access some typing tests online for free, which often include a keyboard tutorial video.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is pressure on a nerve in your wrist which can be a result of repetitive typing. It occurs when the carpal tunnel inside your wrist begins to swell, squeezing one of your nerves. You are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome if you are pregnant, overweight or repeatedly bending your wrist. It is also more likely if you have another illness, such as arthritis or diabetes.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
An ergonomic keyboard minimises muscle strain and prevents injuries from occurring due to awkward hand positions. Although there is no clear evidence suggesting they can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other injuries, they can help reduce strain on the body. If you feel like you are straining while using your keyboard, an ergonomic keyboard may help.
You can read more about ergonomic keyboards and in our guide to office ergonomics.
A good ergonomic mouse fits snugly into your hand and is designed to suit the amount of clicking, scrolling and browsing you do. They can keep your hand in as comfortable a position as possible. This allows you to work for longer without feeling discomfort.
Wrist rests are devices used to support your wrists while typing or using a computer mouse. This can prevent injury to the hand as it stops your hand resting at an uncomfortable angle. If you are experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, we recommend you visit your GP.