Ergonomics 101: Neutral Reach Zone
Why Office Workers Need to Heed The Neutral Reach Zone
Your car is in the shop and you need to borrow a friend’s. It shouldn’t be too complicated, but there’s a snag: your friend insists you don’t alter anything. Your friend is a completely different build from you, and suddenly it’s not so easy. You find yourself struggling to reach critical controls like the steering wheel and indicators. You have to stretch your neck to see in the rear view mirror.
Who can drive like that?
Yet this is exactly how many people approach their office work area. Instead of having things comfortably to hand they stretch and strain to reach basic equipment. All this places the body in awkward postures and causes unnecessary muscle strain. By applying some common sense ideas and having your neutral reach zone correctly configured, these problems can be avoided.
What is the neutral reach zone?
The neutral reach zone is simply the area of your desk which is easily reached without having to stretch to access frequently used tools. Simple enough, right? Generally speaking this is the area within an arc of about 18 to 24 inches of where you are sitting. It should have all your frequently used stuff within it. Beyond this area is where you should place less frequently used items.
So why does all this matter?
Why is the neutral reach zone important?
Think of this area as your own personal cockpit. It’s the hub of where all you work is performed. So if there is a key piece of equipment that is outside this area you’re going to waste time reaching for it throughout the day. More importantly, you’re going to be placing unnecessary strain on your muscles as you keep stretching for it.
Continual movement while working in the office is absolutely vital for a healthy body. What we’re trying to avoid here is making unhealthy stretches and contortions to get to the key stuff we need. Over the course of a day, a week, or a decade these unhealthy movements and positions add up.
How do you set up your neutral reach zone?
Setting up your own personal neutral zone is largely a case of common sense. Begin by observing how you work during the day. What tasks do you do and what tools or equipment do you use to do them?
This will probably include things like:
- Pen and paper
- Multiple coffee cups, if you work at Ergo Depot
Whatever it is you use frequently during the day needs to be part of your neutral zone.
Once you know the items you can then set about placing them conveniently on your desk. So the first thing would be to get your office chair adjusted to the right height and in a comfortable working position.
Next set up your monitor so that your eyes are level with the top of the screen. Making sure you can read the screen’s content easily without craning your neck, typically about an arm’s length away.
From there place your keyboard so you can type with your wrists straight. Position your mouse so it’s close at hand and you can use it without having to move your arm too far to reach it.
Once you have these things correctly positioned, place any remaining items conveniently to hand.
If you get things properly set up it will ensure you are making good use of your neutral working zone.
What if it were possible to make things even better?
We’ll be back tomorrow with more information on specific tools that can make a big difference.