People with desk jobs generally spend a lot of time on the same chair at the same desk in front of the same computer screen each and every day. Unfortunately many office workers’ workspaces are not ergonomically optimized, which often causes them to compromise their posture all day long. These bad postural habits can wreak serious havoc on your body.
Bad office ergonomics can lead to a number of health problems, including back and neck injuries, but also painful wrists and fingers, dry eyes and more.
To prevent your job from causing permanent harm to your body it is important to take some time to set up an ergonomic workstation, even if you don’t yet experience any discomfort or health problems.
Here are a few tips for going about setting up an ergonomic workspace that helps you stay healthy, comfortable and productive.
Your Office Chair
Many people think that ergonomic chairs cost an arm and a leg, but though some do, you can also find very affordable ones these days. Even a few DIY alterations to your current chair may be sufficient.
These are the must-haves for an ergonomic office chair:
- A Soft Cushion: You don’t want to be sitting on a chair that feels like it’s made of bricks all day long.
- Height Adjustable: It’s much easier and cheaper to adjust your chair height than your desk height. You should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor, upper legs parallel to the floor and lower legs at least at a 90 degree angle.
- Arm Rests: Preferably adjustable ones, but they should at least be low enough to allow your elbow to bend at about a 90 degree angle.
- Adjustable Backrest: Ideally you should be able to adjust your chair’s backrest vertically, horizontally and its angle.
- Lumbar Support: Because our lower backs are curved inward your chair’s backrest should come forward at the height of your lower back to support it. If your chair doesn’t have lumbar support you can buy a cheap add-on for it, or just use a small pillow or rolled up towel.
- Wheels and Swivel: Being able to move your chair around will help prevent excessive strain on your body when reaching for objects on your desk.
Once you have your chair sorted out, it’s time to properly set up your desk.
- Mouse and Keyboard: These should be close together with the alphanumeric keys of your keyboard centered in front of you.
- Monitor: The top of your monitor should be about 3 inches above eye level. The screen should be about 30 inches away from you. To minimise glare from your monitor you’ll probably have to adjust the lighting in your office environment.
- Desk Height: Use this workspace planner to calculate the correct height for your desk.
- Other Desk Items: Keep anything that you use often close to you on your desk and put away any items that you rarely use.
While an ergonomic workspace will help you maintain a healthy posture, it is not a cure-all in itself. If you don’t make a conscious effort to keep a good posture, you may still regularly put your body in harmful positions. Avoid slouching, keep your upper body aligned and take frequent breaks.