It should go without saying that office workers spend a lot of time sitting at desks, and while the degeneration may be gradual and subtle, your workspace environment can wreak havoc with your body, making your desk area an uncomfortable and uninviting place to be. Many times it is difficult to recognize just how inefficient and deleterious your workspace has become until issues, such as repetitive strain injuries, begin to occur due to improperly adjusted hardware. A less-than-obvious indication of an unfriendly desk can be the presence of a slouched posture with persistently tense, shoulders which can lead to pinched nerves and wrist pain.
There are several things you can do to make your workplace healthier for your body through simple hardware changes and work habits:
- Ergonomic chairs have become a stable object in ergonomically-correct work spaces and no longer are these necessary furniture items exorbitantly priced. Office supply stores, such as Staples and OfficeMax, offer inexpensive ergonomic chair options for most budgets. The fundamental features of a worthy office chair are a comfortable cushion, the presence of arm rests, an adjustable seat and back rest height mechanism, lumbar support, and the ability to swivel and roll.
- Next up is your desk arrangement. Your mouse and keyboard should be placed as close to each other as possible in a centered position. As a general rule of thumb, don’t pay attention to the keyboard itself, but to the position of the keys when positioning it on your desk. Try to keep the “B” key directly in front of you.
- Invest in a simple monitor stand that allows for the easy adjustment . Just locate the spot on the monitor—about two or three inches from the top of the viewable screen—and adjust the monitor until this point is at eye level and about an arm’s length away from your position. Be sure to adjust your lighting, if you can, so
that the monitor produces as little glare as possible.
- Keep any objects that you may regularly need in an easily accessible place on your desk. Arrange items so that you keep your reaching at a minimum. Put anything else into a draw.
After your desk has been properly arranged it is time to focus on your posture. You should already be positioned properly in front of your computer with easy accessibility to your most needed items. Keep a few things in mind while sitting at your desk to ensure you are in the proper sitting position:
- The most obvious adjustment you can make to your posture is to eliminate any slouch.
- Try not to keep your seat inclined too far backward so that you are actually sitting up at your desk. Try to keep your back at about a 90-degree angle with your legs. Avoiding slouching by adjusting the back of your seat so that it is as far forward as it can move and lay back against it.
- Position your elbows as close to your body as you can and keep your wrists straight. If you are having problems with this posture it probably means your keyboard or mouse is not positioned properly.
- Keep your shoulders held back, but relaxed. This can be easily accomplished by not using the arm rests while you type.
Finally, take frequent breaks. Follow the 20-20-20 rule—look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Taking a five minute break for every hour worked helps
avoid eye strain, joint and muscle pain, and repetitive stress injuries.