If you work forty hours a week in a typical office position, you are likely spending a lot of that time sitting down and working at a computer. Or if you are a student, you are probably glued to your computer.
Improving desk ergonomics is concerned with ensuring that you are able to complete your work at the end of the day without feeling any pains or aches. Although most of these are minor, these instances of discomfort can snowball, leading to musculoskeletal injuries. Below are some suggestions to better optimize your working style.
Elevate your screen
There is some debate whether the top of the screen or the middle should be level with your eyes, but either way, you should elevate the screen. A low screen keeps your face and thus your neck angled down, which can result in neck pains.
If you are working with a desktop, adjust the monitor accordingly or if it cannot be adjusted, consider using a dedicated monitor stand. You can even get creative and use something like a block of wood or a phone book. Consider using these methods with your laptop as well, and investing in an external keyboard so that you’re not typing with your forearms held awkwardly in the air.
Adjust your chair
There are three chair-related adjustments you should make.
First, the chair seat should be high enough that your feet are flush against the floor and your knees are bent in a right angle. If your chair’s height cannot be adjusted, consider adding a cushion (the extra comfort is a bonus!) or propping something under your desk for your feet to rest on.
Second, the back of your chair should have a curve to it that mirrors the natural curve of your spine, so that when you press your back flush against the chair back, your spine is supported. If this feature is missing, consider purchasing an ergonomic back cushion and strap it to your chair back. At the very least, if you find that there is a space between your back and the chair back, fill the space with a normal cushion.
Finally, your forearms should rest on your chair armrests and your elbows should be kept at a right angle like your knees. If your arm does not have armrests, shift your keyboard forward and keep your forearms on the desk so that they are still supported.
Take frequent breaks
Being focused and “in the zone” is great and all, but you may end up working for five hours straight and stand up with aches and pains. Even with the above adjustments, working continuously is not recommended.
Keep a timer on your computer or phone to remind yourself that you need to take a break. This time should involve standing up and stretching. Consider getting yourself some water and a snack.
After reading this article, take a moment and observe your working space. Are you slouching because of inadequate back support? Are your arms hanging in the air? Make these adjustments, keep everything supported, and enjoy your computer time!