One of the basic principles of ergonomics is to work in neutral. This means making sure your body remains under minimal stress for the task at hand by keeping it aligned and balanced while at a desk or workstation—whether it’s typing on a keyboard, assembling electronic modules, performing lab experiments, or any work that requires a horizontal surface.

Proper placement of tools and materials for the job helps maintain balance and alignment.  When it comes to achieving proper range of motion for hands and arms, a “workzone” model is a useful way to organize your work area. Each zone is defined by the extent of bodily motion required to perform a specific action.

WORKZONE 1 (Primary): 

While it may seem obvious, recurrent tasks and frequently used tools should be positioned within the “reach envelope” of your forearms (the right arm in the diagram). That’s the Primary Workzone shown in green on Figure 1. This means you don’t need to move your upper arm in order to perform the task. If you’re using a desktop or laptop computer, this is where a keyboard and mouse should be placed. If the task is assembling or testing an electronics or small mechanical module, the tools and parts you need most should be in the “green zone.” Typically, it’s simply a matter of rearranging your work area to move materials and tools already on the work surface into the Primary Workzone.

Organize a workstation into three work zones for correct ergonomicsWORKZONE 2 (Secondary): 

The Secondary Workzone (shown in yellow in Figure 1) is where materials and tools used less frequently are placed. Here, everything can be reached within the envelope defined by an outstretched arm (the left arm in Figure 1). Another example of the Secondary Workzone is an electronics assembly line where the conveyor that delivers and removes parts is located at the rear or side of the workstation as shown in Figure 2. The conveyor is within arm’s reach of the worker, who can easily remove the item and then place it back on the belt when the task is complete.

A Conveyor delivers parts to the secondary work zone.Workstations equipped with parts bins (shown in the Secondary Workzone of Figure 3) are another good way to properly equip the Secondary Work zone.

A computer keyboard and mouse used only occasionally may be placed in the Secondary Workzone.  Workplace articulating arms for keyboards and monitors are an ideal solution for the Secondary Zone because they keep monitors, keyboards, and parts within arm’s reach. Since they are easily adjustable they also quickly accommodate different user requirements.

WORKZONE 3 (Reference): 

The Reference Workzone (shown in red in Figure 1) requires additional bodily movement, which can include standing up if seated. Infrequently used items such as reference manuals or drawings can be stored here. Workplace’s wide assortment of fixed and adjustable shelving (as shown in Figure 3) is ideal for organizing documentation or the worker’s personal items.

Example workstation organized into three work zones.

Workplace’s extensive array of workstations and accessories include parts bins, adjustable shelving, and articulating arms that make it easy to organize the workstation layout using ergonomic principles for the task at hand. At the same time, every Workplace accessory has the flexibility to be rearranged quickly and easily for different—but still ergonomically correct— jobs.