You can spend an hour in the gym every day, and it won’t be enough to keep your body happy if you spend nine consecutive hours sitting with poor posture. Whether working from home or in the office, it’s essential to ensure that your workspace is ergonomic and conducive to movement throughout your day. Muscles quickly become strained due to poor posture, fascia begins to creep, and bone structure ultimately changes. Of course, prevention is the best medicine, but if you’re already experiencing musculoskeletal pain during or after work, it’s not too late to make some changes. No excuses! You don’t need fancy equipment to make your workspace more ergonomic.
Proper Workplace Setup 101
The key to creating an ergonomic workspace is understanding what “ergonomic” means. Ergonomics is the science of designing your workspace around your body’s natural movements. When sitting at a desk all day, ergonomics helps keep you comfortable while reducing injury risks due to repetitive motion or awkward posture. Here are some tips on how you can create a posture-friendly workspace so that you don’t experience work-related pain when working at a desk:
- Find the right chair. Make sure both feet are flat on the floor. If you are shorter than average, find a way to lower your chair or lift your feet so your knees align with your hips. If you are taller than average, find a way to raise your chair. Your seat should be soft enough that your sit bones (ischial tuberosities) don’t hurt. Your elbows should be able to rest either on armrests or your desk, not too far forward. Use or make a padded surface if your elbows are bony. Make use of lumbar support when leaning back.
- Find the correct monitor position. If you have a laptop, try to get a separate monitor. Positioning your monitor correctly can help reduce neck pain while improving visibility and clarity. Ideally, your computer screen should be at eye level to reduce strain on your neck muscles while preventing eyestrain from constantly looking down or up at the screen. Invest in a monitor stand, or use large hardcover books to position your monitor. My favorite is a breakfast tray.
- Use an external keyboard. I cannot stress this enough. Do you type all day on a 13″ laptop? I’ll be sending prayers to your wrists. Comfortable keyboards should be the right size for your hands and, ideally, have a separation between the right and left sides. Search for ergonomic keyboards – they’re not as expensive as you think. You may encounter a learning curve, but you’ll get used to it, and your hands will thank you. If your keyboard is tall, consider a wrist pad/support.
- Choose a mouse that fits your hand. I have long fingers – a standard computer mouse means my hand is constantly flexed and my fingers cramped. Find a mouse that allows your hand to rest entirely and your fingers to click without too much effort.
- Schedule movement. If you have a transitional standing desk, use it! Try switching positions every 45 minutes or so. If you don’t have the option of a standing desk, use a 60-minute timer to stand up and walk around for a minute. Have an extended break? Use it to stretch.
- Use strategic placement. Place your low-need high-want items far away. If you love your coffee, keep your espresso machine outside your office. You’ll feel more motivated to get up and move during work breaks.
- Get organized. The last step is to organize everything in your workspace for easy access during your day. Keep high-need items like pens, paperclips, and folders close by so you don’t have to reach too far during tasks. Additionally, tuck cords away, and ensure there is enough room for movement without bumping into objects throughout the day.
You don’t need expensive gadgets to transform your workspace. I recommend using what you have first. Raise your seat with blankets, re-purpose an old sock into a wrist cushion, or set your computer on a mantle to stand briefly. You can find lots of electronic accessories second-hand. Invest in the items that will make the most significant difference for you. You can also hire a professional ergonomist or ask your company if there’s someone on the team to help you.
Creating an effective workstation setup doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs careful consideration and some creativity. By following the steps above and taking extra care of your posture while working from home, you can avoid unnecessary muscle strain while still being productive with whatever task lies ahead!