If you’re experiencing chronic muscle pain and tension due to poor ergonomics in your desk setup, you’re likely ready to make some changes. All it takes is a little time and the right equipment, and you can be working at your desk, with less pain, in no time. Are you ready to increase productivity, reduce muscle tension and pain, and feel better about your job? Please keep reading for six steps to a proper ergonomic desk setup.
6 Things You Need for an Ergonomic Desk Setup
There are many factors to consider when creating the best ergonomic desk setup. Here are six ways to get started today and save yourself from pain and tension tomorrow.
- The Right Chair
A correctly adjusted office chair is one of the essential pieces of a proper ergonomic desk setup. Your current office chair may be the right one if you can adjust it how you need to. Here are some ways to check if your office chair is fitting you properly and supporting an ergonomic desk setup:
- Your lower and mid back feel cushioned and supported when sitting straight in your chair. An ergonomic office chair will encourage the natural S shape of your spine.
- Your thighs are parallel to the ground with your feet flat on the floor, and you can fit two fingers between your chair and the back of your knee.
- Your armrests are at elbow height, and your shoulders are relaxed.
- Your head is centered between your shoulders.
If any of the above things are not happening, then it’s time to adjust your office chair or use supports like cushions or a footrest. Even if you can’t get a new office chair, with some adjustments and additional ergonomic tools like cushions, you can likely find a bit, or a lot, of relief.
- The Right Desk Height
For proper ergonomics, while typing, your desk needs to be at the right height so that your arms and wrists are in a neutral position or at right angles. Your arms shouldn’t be lifted up—this can cause pressure on your arm, blocking nerves and blood flow. They also shouldn’t be lower than your elbows, which creates strain on the wrists and hands. For people of average height, this looks like a desk that’s 28-30 inches tall. You may need more or less height for the best ergonomic desk setup if you’re not of average height. Adjustable desks are a great choice, as is using props to raise your desk height. If adjusting your desk height isn’t a practical option, consider using a keyboard tray to raise your typing level or adjusting your chair height and using a foot wedge or footrest if needed.
- The Right Keyboard
Try this simple exercise to determine if your keyboard is supporting your ergonomics or not. Place your hands on your keyboard as if you are about to start typing. Now move your arms so they are shoulder width apart and lying straight on your desk. You probably felt your shoulder blades move more securely onto your back and your shoulders relax. That is the proper position for good ergonomics while typing.
The good news is that this problem has an easy solution. Many ergonomic keyboards on the market allow for typing with shoulder and arm alignment. These ergonomic keyboards are split or partially split, so you don’t have to move your arms toward each other while typing. They also tend to be raised and tilted forward to put less strain on your wrists. If you use a laptop, this is an excellent opportunity to bring your screen to the correct height with a stand and use an external keyboard.
- The Right Mouse
Repetitive motion injuries from mouse usage are common in today’s workplace. In addition to typing on a keyboard, using a mouse is the most common tool on your desktop to require repetitive motions. Misusing a mouse or one that’s the wrong shape can strain the fingers, hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders.
Choosing the right mouse is mostly about what feels best to your hand and arm. Look for a mouse that glides smoothly and fits well in your hand. If using a mouse continues to strain your anatomy, consider alternatives. A stylus with a graphic tablet, like those used by artists, might work better. Or you could try a trackball device. Whatever tool solution you find, take time to protect the carpal tunnel in your wrist with gentle stretches and exercises. Another practical solution is to take regular breaks for movement while using a mouse extensively.
- The Right Monitor Height
The final piece of the puzzle in an ergonomic desk setup is having your monitor(s) at the right height. Even if you have your desk and chair in the correct position, if you need to tilt your head up or down out of alignment to see your computer screen, that is poor ergonomics. Moving your head out of alignment puts extra pounds of pressure on your neck and spine. Did you know your head weighs about 12 pounds? Your neck, all seven vertebrae of it, along with its twenty fine supporting muscles, bear the brunt of that extra weight. Too much time with your head out of alignment can cause neck pain, muscle tension in the shoulders and back along with headaches.
To prevent this strain on your neck and spine, use adjustable monitors, a monitor adjuster, or shelves to lift your monitor to the correct height, which is when your eyes are about 2-3 inches below the top of your screen. Or, if you’re a laptop user, consider a stand that allows you to connect your device to an external keyboard.
- The Right Lighting
The most ergonomically designed workstation can’t save you from eye strain and its associated headaches and blurry vision caused by poor lighting. When lighting is too bright, it can make it difficult to see and overworks the eyes. Any glare, whether from sunlight or artificial light, counts as poor lighting. And, when the lighting is dim, your eyes again must overwork to compensate for the lack of light. Whether your lighting is too bright or too dim, poor lighting can challenge your vision and make it difficult to work. Symptoms of eye strain include:
- Neck or shoulder pain
- Sensitivity to light
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Heavy eyelids
If your lighting is too bright, try asking for different light bulbs for your office or cubicle area. For low lighting, ask for or invest in a good lamp or two.
With some simple changes, you can have good ergonomics at your desk while working. Even something as quick and easy as folding a towel to use as low back support will help you have better ergonomics while working. In today’s modern world, learning to relate well to our devices is a lifelong journey, so considering ergonomics as an ongoing practice might be helpful now and in the long run.