We’ve heard a lot recently about how sitting all day is extremely bad for your health. Even if you cannot have a sit-stand workstation or the enviable treadmill desk, there are some easy things you can do to make an ergonomic office that is not only more comfortable, but also better for and your long term muscular health.
Ergonomics, according to OSHA, is fitting a job (and workstation) to a person to lessen muscle fatigue, increase productively, and decrease work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). An ergonomic office or workstation helps with posture and support to release tension and strain on the neck and back. You don’t need any special equipment to make your office ergonomic. Let’s get started!
1. Start with your chair.
Your chair should have lumbar support to reinforce the natural curves of your spine. Your feet should rest comfortably on the ground or a foot rest with your thighs parallel to the floor. If you are vertically challenged (like me!) this may mean that you need to get a lumbar pillow and short stool or box to place your feet on when seated at your desk. Also, remember not to cross your legs or sit on your feet because it impedes circulation and affects your posture (I’ll be honest, I just uncrossed my legs while writing this paragraph). Your chair should also be close enough to the desk to discourage slouching or leaning on the desk. If you’re still having trouble with slouching, think about one of these posture reminder devices.
2. Check your desk height.
Your desk should provide clearance for your thighs and be at a good height for your arms to use the keyboard and your feet to touch the floor. You may need to get creative, putting blocks under the desk to raise it or using a foot rest so your feet meet the floor after you’ve adjusted your chair (or maybe both). Your desk is probably going to be the least adjustable piece of furniture in your office, so don’t be afraid to move other things around to adjust to the desk (unless you are lucky enough to have a sit-stand work station or adjustable desk).
3. Make sure your computer monitor is the right height, distance, and location.
Your eyes should be level with the top of the monitor and the monitor itself should be about an arms length away from you. To avoid eyestrain, make sure the monitor is not in front of a bright window and remember to change the display brightness for different times of the day. If you need to raise your monitor, a stack of old books is a great way to make a base that shows a little of your personality and looks good, too.
4. Position your keyboard and mouse so your arms are supported and wrists are straight when typing or using the mouse.
Your keyboard and mouse should be next to each other and far enough from the edge of your desk to allow you to comfortably support your arms on the surface of the desk. Make sure your wrists are at or slightly below the level of your elbows. This will help you avoid neck strain and carpal tunnel. Keyboard shortcuts are also a great way to avoid having to use the mouse too much. If you use a laptop, do your future self a favor and get a docking station while you’re at your desk.
5. Keep key objects close at hand to avoid reaching (or set them far enough away you have to get up).
For things you use all the time, like your phone or paperclips, keep them close to hand so you don’t have to stretch too far. OR you can set them far enough away that you have to get up to use them, forcing yourself to take a break and move around.
6. Don’t forget to take micro breaks to rest your eyes and get moving!
The standard rule is 15 minutes every two hours, but I don’t know anyone who actually manages to do that. Instead, take micro breaks every thirty minutes or so to rest your eyes and stretch a little. Even if it’s only a quick trip to the bathroom or the printer, set a timer to remind yourself to get up and move every hour or two. And when you get back to your desk, don’t forget to scoot your chair in!