Like it or not, people spend a lot of time at work. Depending on your field and work ethic, you could spend more time at work than at home. If that’s the case, your comfort there is essential so you can maintain a high level of productivity. The best way to do that is to make your office and workstation more ergonomic. Several factors contribute to an uncomfortable workplace and can make sitting at your desk less than appealing. A poorly designed workspace can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, back problems, eye strain, and neck pain. The good news is that you can better avoid those ailments by following our guide to making your office more ergonomic.
Choose the Correct Chair
Finding the right ergonomic chair for the office is probably the most important piece of the comfort matrix. If you suffer from lower back pain, uncomfortable office furniture does little to alleviate that pain. No matter what kind of chair you sit in eight hours a day—whether it’s a conference chair, office training chair, or tall swiveling stool—it must be ergonomically correct. The chair should let you put your feet on the floor, support the lower back and have an adjustable seatback. If your chair is too high off the ground, and your feet don’t reach the floor, get a footrest. If a proper footrest isn’t available, then improvise and use whatever is handy; a stack of books or a short stool. Just about anything will do as long it gives your feet a place to rest.
Variable Desk Height
It bears mentioning that, if you have an office job, your desk is the center of your work universe. Fortunately, desk designs are changing and improving along with the modern workplace. They aren’t just a wooden box with drawers on either side any longer. They come in various sizes, shapes, and heights. It’s a good thing too, because the desk’s height is the most important aspect of it. If it’s too high it will cause strain on the forearms, and if it’s too short it will cause slouching and lower back pain.
Adjustable height desks are available so the worker can set it at the height that’s best for them. There are also desk risers that allow you to stand and continue working whenever you feel the need to stretch your legs and give your back a break.
Monitor Position Matters
Monitor placement is an overlooked ergonomic aspect. A poorly placed monitor can lead to headaches and neck and shoulder pain over time. Ideally, the monitor should at arm’s reach, or 20 inches away from your face, and the top of it should be at or below eye level. The angle should be between 10 to 20 degrees. Some monitors are fixed to their stands and they are not easily adjustable, but there are adjustable stands available and you can always improvise. Stack some books or thick papers underneath to create the angle you want.
Select the Correct Mouse and Keyboard
The placement and angle of the mouse and keyboard at the workstation is very important. If you can’t get it right, then it might be time to jettison them in favor of ergonomically correct ones. People suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and repetitive strain injuries because of their keyboard and mouse without realizing it. Your elbows should be at your side, not in front of or behind you. So, your keyboard should be in front of you in a position that you can type with your elbows at your side. Be sure to find a mouse that fits your grip—there are many options out there, so do your research. The right one should alleviate the unconscious gripping and tension in your fingers that ultimately lead to injury.
Establish Workstation Zones
Everyone has a specific way they like to organize their desk. If you like a minimalist approach or prefer to decorate and have some clutter, it’s recommended to divide your desk into zones. The things that you use more often need to be comfortably within reach to avoid unnecessary and constant strain. Set up the zones on your desk to have the things you need more often, such as the keyboard and mouse, closer than things you don’t use as much. Zone 1 includes the mouse and keyboard, Zone 2 is just at arm’s reach and should include the phone, calculator, and coffee cup. Finally, Zone 3 should be things you only need occasionally, including the monitor, reference materials, or plants.
Be Mindful of your Posture
Furniture can only go so far when it comes to your comfort—you bear some responsibility as well. Having good posture while sitting at your desk will help alleviate some of the physical ailments and make the day pain-free. Make sure that you don’t slouch while sitting in your chair. The seatback on your chair should be positioned so that your back is at a 100-degree angle and making you sit up straight and resting on the seat back. Keep your elbows close to the body and at 90 degrees and keep your wrists straight. If the keyboard and mouse are positioned correctly, this should be easy to accomplish. All the tension in your body is around the shoulders, so keep your back straight and your shoulders back and stay relaxed.
Make Good Lifestyle Choices
Let’s take some extra personal responsibility for our own comfort and wellbeing. Too often, we endure the workday and see it as something to get past. We spend a lot of time at work, so we should take care of ourselves there. Office work is sedentary work, so watch your diet at work. Unhealthy snacks and fast food taste great, but they aren’t helping your energy or mood. Get some exercise when you can, and get away from your desk from time to time. Take a walk outside on a nice day to reset your mind and get some air. Adding small changes to the daily routine and adding some exercise will reduce stress, increase relaxation, and make you healthier, happier, and more productive.