If you’re sitting at your desk while reading this blog post, it could wind up being a real pain in your neck.
Is your desk setup uncomfortable? Do you have a twinge in your back, neck, wrists or fingers? It doesn’t have to be that way — in fact, it shouldn’t. Research suggests that you can prevent, and even reverse, pains by engineering your office work environment properly. The investment will be well worth it, not only for your health but also for your overall well-being.
The goal is to create an environment where your body is in a neutral position that doesn’t cause added tension — you have enough mental strain as it is. And in case you were wondering, flopping down on your sofa with a laptop doesn’t qualify as ‘ergonomic.’
Making this effort is essential to creating a thriving workplace, because when employees are comfortable in their physical environment, they’re more productive and motivated by the work they produce, research from the University of Reading shows. These tips can make all the difference:
- Let’s start with your office chair. While sitting, your feet should be resting on the floor or a footrest, your knees should be level with your hips, your thighs should be parallel to the ground and your lower and upper back should feel supported.
If you experience back pain, try adjusting your chair’s backrest and/or prop a pillow or lumbar support cushion between your chair and your lower back.
- There’s an abundance of stresses to cause you headaches at work. Don’t let your monitor be one of those. Sitting too close to your monitor can contribute to eyestrain, which if left unchecked, will leave you with a nasty headache. This adjustment should help: when seated in your chair, your monitor should be an arm’s length distance away and the top of your screen should be at eye level. If you have multiple screens, make sure you can view them easily. If it’s difficult to comfortably see the screen, consider enlarging the text size on your computer.
- Did you know that the recommended keyboard height is two inches above your knees? When typing, your arms should be at or below elbow level and your wrists should be in a neutral position (not tilted up or down). To help achieve this setup, you may consider installing a downward sloping keyboard tray or using an ergonomic keyboard.
- Take a moment to check in on your mouse. Do you find yourself reaching for it? If so, bring it closer. Ensure that your wrist is supported. To give one wrist a break, alternate hands using the mouse. Some may find it helpful to use a mousepad with a wrist rest or swapping a traditional mouse out for an ergonomic one. Ergonomic mice can be a game changer.
Adjusting your workstation setup can improve your comfort level and your overall outlook. In addition to tweaking your physical environment, remember to take breaks throughout the day. Sitting — even at an ergonomically sound desk — and staring at a computer screen for several hours on end isn’t healthy. Find a break schedule that works for you and stick to it. Learn how to take more effective timeouts from this blog post.
Also, check out this helpful Cornell guide, “Where It Hurts,” which identifies common causes of workplace-related pain. Don’t just work through the aches, because — and I say this from experience — it will only get worse if you do. But the good news is that small adjustments can make a really big difference.
If you start feeling pain at your desk or while working and don’t know what to do, consider hiring a certified professional ergonomist to evaluate your workstation (even better, hire one before you experience pain). Talk to your company’s human resources department — it may already have someone it works with.
Use this keyboard trick
Handy ergonomic tip: The B and H keys on your keyboard should be aligned with your midline. If they’re not, you’ll want to readjust your desk or seat. Similarly, if you’re working on a monitor, it should be straight in front of you. You’ll know it’s at the right level when you don’t need to tilt your head up or down to see what you’re working on. Happy readjusting — and pain-free working!