Finding the Perfect Fit: 6 Tips for An Ergonomic Workspace

Whether you work in the office or from home, proper ergonomics in your workspace doesn't have to be expensive.

Sitting at a desk all day may not seem like the most strenuous activity, but all those hours hunched over can take their toll. For years, health experts have been warning both blue and white collar workers about the need to change positions (from sitting to standing or vice versa) and practice good posture. The wear and tear that both sitting or standing for extended periods of time can have on a human body is immense: from poor circulation to high blood pressure, to joint issues and arthritis and even mental health problems.

Now that most workers effectively have two offices, at home and at their workplace, they are tasked with figuring out how to take care of themselves in radically different environments. This is where ergonomics come into play. When people hear the word “ergonomics” what generally comes to mind is a contoured mouse accessory or a chair with lumbar (lower back) support. While supportive furniture and devices are important, positive ergonomics can be achieved almost anywhere. Improving one’s posture and positioning work stations and screens correctly can go a long way to making a day at home or at the office more pleasant.

  1. Proper Sitting Posture:
    • Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and are not dangling or bent. Having a solid foundation on which to rest your feet makes improving your posture far easier.
    • Your knees should bend at a 90 degree angle. While it may be tempting to prop your feet up underneath your desk, it can cause you to slump and let your neck tip forward.
    • Try not to lean to one side or the other while sitting for an extended period. Distribute your weight evenly over both hips.
  1. Proper Chair Height:
    • Adjust your seat so that your knees are even with your hips. Your lower legs and arms should be parallel to the ground. Let your arms gently rest on your desk or the arms of your chair. This can also help reduce the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist injuries.
  1. Proper Monitor Height:
    • Your monitor (whether it’s a desktop, laptop or tablet) should sit about an arm’s length away from you while working.
    • The top of the screen should be at your eye level when sitting straight up. Having your monitor too low or too high can cause neck pain and eye strain. In a pinch, you can always stack books underneath your monitor to bring it up to the right level. Another option is to buy a free-standing adjustable mount for your screen, allowing you to position it almost anywhere.
  1. Proper Keyboard Position:
    • When typing, your elbows should be bent anywhere between 90 to 110 degrees to provide maximum comfort.
    • Your wrists should be in a neutral position. This means that they are angled neither up nor down. If you can, allow your wrists to lightly float above the keyboard, so that they don’t dig into the desk or device.
    • If you do encounter issues while typing, you can always switch to an ergonomic mouse rather than using a trackpad. Anything to reduce repetitive or unnatural motions is beneficial.
  1. Take a Stretch Break at Work:
    • Most experts agree that people should take breaks from sitting every 30 minutes or so. Don’t be afraid to get up from your desk to stretch or move around.
      1. Mental breaks are just as important as physical ones. The human brain isn’t designed to focus on only one thing for hours on end. Walking around the office or your neighborhood, if you work from home, can increase blood flow to your brain and sometimes inspire new ideas.
      2. Stretching your muscles and moving your joints is vital to maintaining good posture. As we sit or stand in one place, we gradually can let ourselves slump and get into bad posture habits. Movement can remind your body to straighten up.
      3. Your muscles also tense up the longer you hold the same position. Whether you’re at home or in the workplace, go take a 5-10 minute break and find something stimulating or engaging to do. Make some coffee, talk to your coworker or even do some exercises.
  1. Sitting Versus Standing at Work:
    • The debate about whether sitting or standing during the day is best rages on, but the good news is that you can ignore the chatter and go with what’s best for you. Both positions have their benefits and both have weaknesses. Standing for prolonged stretches can be bad for your veins and knees, while sitting for too long can have similar negative impacts. The solution is to alternate between sitting and standing throughout your workday.
      1. Alternating can improve concentration, not only by increasing blood flow but by allowing your mind to shift attention to other tasks.
      2. You might be surprised to hear this, but alternating positions burns calories. Many office workers have learned the perks of doing small and manageable workouts right at their desk.
      3. Studies show that brain activity increases in people who alternate between sitting and standing. Getting up might just be the brainstorm you needed.

Achieving the right ergonomics is an ongoing challenge, but the more you know about what’s healthy and effective the better you can adapt your space to fit you, rather than the other way around. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of patience and experimentation. The most important thing to remember is that a body and mind function at their peak when they feel most comfortable, so don’t neglect your needs.

Have questions about the right furniture to best support your employees? We can help devise a furniture plan to suit your company’s needs!