Ergonomics is the study of how humans interact with manmade objects. The goal of ergonomics is to create an environment that is well-suited to a user's physical needs.
While ergonomics is relevant in many areas, it is commonly applied to the workplace environment. For example, ergonomics is often used to create comfortable workstations for employees. This may involve choosing customized desks and chairs that fit each individual's body type. It may also include providing employees with ergonomic keyboards and wrist rests that provide better typing posture.
Keyboards, mice, and other devices that are developed using ergonomics are said to have "ergonomic design." This type of design is produced by ergonomics studies that help engineers better understand the way people use devices. For example, an ergonomic chair may help support your lower back and prevent you from slouching. An ergonomic desk may adjust to the appropriate height, so you can sit up straight and view your monitor at the right level. An ergonomic keyboard may have a small slope on each side that fits your hand position more naturally than a flat keyboard.
When multiple ergonomic objects are used together, it creates an ergonomically sound environment. This is especially important in office workplaces, where people often spend the majority of their day sitting in front of a computer. Small changes like adjusting a monitor to the correct height may prevent neck pain. A simple wrist rest may prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, which is caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist. By paying attention to ergonomics and making the necessary changes, you avoid the aches and pains that bad posture and receptive stress injuries can cause.
NOTE: Even if you have an ergonomically friendly workstation, it is still helpful to stand up and walk around every half hour.
Updated: April 29, 2011