When you get in a car, what’s the first thing your do? You adjust the seat so you can reach the pedals, see the road properly and feel comfortable. You move the mirrors to make sure you have a clear line of sight and adjust the headrest and seatbelt. These customisations make driving safer and more comfortable, and it’s important to make similar adjustments at your desk.
Many of our bad habits when sitting at our desks can cause long-term implications, not to mention poor posture and back pain in the short-term. Whether you’re working from home or in the office, it’s important to look at your workspace ergonomics.
Ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace. The idea is to design the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job.
It doesn’t have to be a big or expensive job – here are some very simple adjustments you can make right now that will make your desk-life a whole lot healthier, and maybe even give your productivity a boost.
Take the time to learn how to adjust your chair (or even invest in a new one). Studies show that specific seated postures can lower the risk of musculoskeletal symptoms and musculoskeletal disorders. So how exactly should we be sitting?
We recommend raising or lowering your seat until your thighs are parallel to the floor with your feet flat on the floor (or on a footrest if your feet cannot comfortably rest on the floor). You should aim to have two inches of clearance between the back of your knees and the edge of your seat.
Be sure to lean back in your chair, with your backrest sitting comfortably in the small of your back, to allow the backrest to support your upper body.
If you find yourself leaning forward a lot, then you might think this will be all down to your chair setup, but it could actually be your keyboard. Standard desks are too high for a large proportion of the population. As such, users tend to sit higher in their chairs and shrug their shoulders the entire working day. Worse, they tend to lean forward to accommodate the keyboard placement. Instead, we should be placing the keyboard in the right position for us!
The ideal position for your keyboard is in your lap. By moving your keyboard and mouse closer to your body, your shoulders will relax, your wrists will be straighter and your palms supported. This placement allows you to put your body weight in to the backrest of your chair, resulting in a better and more natural posture.
You might find an adjustable keyboard tray or a palm support helpful.
Are you using your mouse correctly? Avoid anchoring your wrist on the desk, and instead place the heel of your palm over the base of the mouse and use your entire arm to use the mouse, while keeping your wrist straight. Alternatively, you might want to invest in a mouse that has an integrated palm support, which eliminates the need to anchor your wrist.
Another reason you might be leaning forward at your desk, could be the height and position of your monitor.
Your monitor should be at least an arms length away and positioned for a natural 15 degree downward gaze. To optimise viewing, to top of the screen should be positioned at or slightly below eye height.
Workspace lighting is not just for decoration, is’t healthier for your eyes! Making sure your desk is well lit can reduce the risk of eyestrain, eye fatigue, dry eyes, light sensitivity, blurred vision and headaches. As we get older, lighting becomes more and more important too.
Make sure to evaluate how well lit your workspace is, and consider adding an adjustable desk lamp which you can manipulate depending on the task at hand.
Take it one step further
Get a standing desk
As well as increased productivity, there are quite a few health benefits to using a standing desk. Standing to work in the afternoons can burn over 170 additional calories, that’s almost 1000 extra calories burned simply by choosing to stand and work in the afternoon. Studies have also found that standing is better for heart health than sitting, and that people who stand all day have half the risk of heart disease compared to those that sit all day.
It’s not for everyone, but it might be for you. If you want to try before you buy, why not setup your laptop using a set of shelves or find something you can safely stack to the correct height.
Schedule regular breaks
If you aren’t standing at your desk, be sure to schedule regular work breaks in to your daily routine. You might think that more breaks means less productivity, however the productivity app DeskTime found that the highest performing 10 percent of workers tended to work for 52 consecutive minutes, followed by a 17 minute break.
Everyone has different working styles, but the main thing is to make sure you take regular breaks to give your mind and body a chance to relax. Have a stretch, get some water, have a brew, stand in the sunshine, stroke the dog… Just have a change of scene and take a moment before you get back to it.
You might like to take a look at our top tips for working from home, for ideas on how to make the most out of remote working.