One simple way to dramatically boost your health and happiness is to adjust your workstation to be more ergonomic. From your neck and back to your wrists, knees, and elbows, proper posture and alignment at your workstation can have a huge impact on your life. Refreshing your home office workspace with an ergonomic setup that supports voluntary changes in position throughout the day will make you work smarter and feel better. This guide to workstation ergonomics explores how to achieve the optimal position while working at your desk.
Imagine if you could work more efficiently and productively, prevent chronic pain in your joints and spine, and feel less fatigued at the end of a workday? While it sounds too good to be true, it is within your reach, as standing workstation ergonomics are a game-changer for overall wellness. In particular, during this unique period of working from home, many people are working all day without leaving the house. Regrettably, this can have negative effects on your overall health. While gyms are closed and we aren’t walking or commuting as much, it’s essential to take care of your body to maintain physical and mental wellbeing.
Embrace Good Posture
When we work for seven or more hours a day at our computers, there is undoubtedly a toll on our bodies. Neck, back pain and fatigue are very common after sitting for hours, especially if you are hunched at your desk. Without even realizing it, your posture often gets worse from the simple act of being sedentary at your desk and looking at your computer. While you don’t naturally equate office jobs with workplace injuries, . Luckily, there is time to make tweaks to your office in order to create a more ergonomic space that will support your body and mind.
How to Find Your Ideal Ergonomics Standing Workstations’ Height and Posture
You may be wondering what the ideal standing workstation height is? The truth is, the right height varies from person to person. You will need to raise or lower the desk according to your own height in order to reap the full-body benefits of a standing desk. To discern where the correct desk height is, start by standing in a neutral upright relaxed position with the spine straight. Walk forward to the desk and reach out your hands until they rest lightly on the keyboard. The computer monitor should be at eye-level without hunching or straining of your neck. Your elbows should be parallel with the keyboard tray and pinned close to your sides. In this position, you should feel like your alignment is straight and that your weight is balanced between both legs.
Shoulders should remain back and down and not be scrunched up around your ears. As the tendency exists to hold tension and stress in your shoulders, you should take a deep breath and roll your shoulders down whenever you feel them slowly rising. Keep in mind that the height of your desk will have to be checked every morning, as permeable factors like footwear can affect how tall you are.
How to Adjust Your Chair for Proper Posture
As with your desk, you will need to adjust your chair to achieve an optimal and ergonomic position. To do this, remember that the 90 angle is your friend. When sitting, your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle with your hands resting gently on the keyboard so as to reduce excess strain on the arms and wrists. Likewise, the knees should also be bent at a 90-degree angle with feet planted flat on the floor. Your back should be gently supported by the back of the chair while maintaining a small space under the knees that is not touching the chair. The torso should also be at a 90-degree angle in relation to the thighs. If any of these measurements are off, adjust your chair, keyboard, and computer monitor to remedy the angles.
According to Canadian statistics, 28.8% of lost-time claims are due to back injuries, with 7% of those occurring in clerical jobs. If you suffer from any lower back pain while sitting in a chair at work, you may need additional lumbar support. This can be in the form of a small pillow, formal lumbar support, or adding a seat cushion to your chair. A support pillow like Yaasa’s The Memory Foam Pillow is an ideal solution as the foam forms to the natural curvature of your spine. In a sitting position, your back should be neutral and upright.
How to Adjust Your Keyboard and Mouse
When you are sitting and standing, your keyboard tray should be parallel to your forearms with your elbows at 90 degrees. The desired result is that your hands are on the same level as your elbows. Hands should not extend upwards from the wrist. When your wrists are positioned improperly, it will increase your risk of developing carpal tunnel over time through chronic compression. A more neutral position of the wrists while working minimizes stress and strain and expends the least amount of effort. In addition, when your body is less fatigued, you will find that you can work for longer periods with better focus.
Don’t forget your mouse! Your mouse should be right next to the keyboard so that you do not have to reach for it. If the mouse has settings for sensitivity, set it at the lightest touch possible to reduce energy expenditure. Some people switch their mouse from one side of the keyboard to the other in order to alternate hands. However, this can seem like an unnecessary challenge for anyone who is not ambidextrous.
How to Adjust Your Monitor
Whether you are sitting or standing, your monitor should be set at eye-level. If we are getting specific, your eyes should coincide naturally with the top line on the monitor screen. The distance between your head and the monitor should be approximately 20-24 inches. The tilt of the monitor screen is also important and should be set at around 10 to 20 degrees upward. This makes it possible for your neck to remain in neutral alignment without leaning downward to see.
Reduce Repetitive Motions
While you might think of accidents and acute injuries being the greatest risk in the workplace, a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 31% of workplace injuries were musculoskeletal disorders and injuries. Unfortunately, many of these injuries occurred by performing repetitive movements that, over time, caused stress and strain on the body. Examples of repetitive motions at the workplace include: bending down, reaching for objects/items on your desk, or lifting files throughout the day. Any of these tasks done once would be fine, but when you do them repeatedly over time, your body can feel the impact. A potential solution to protecting yourself from these repetitive motions is to have ergonomic furniture and supplies that will help you do your job with less strain.
Trade a Sedentary Lifestyle for a Sit-Stand Workstation
The fact is, in recent decades many adults have adopted a lifestyle where they spend more than 70% of their day in a seated position. A sedentary lifestyle does not solely mean that you don’t exercise enough; it’s a combination of not exercising and being more sedentary at baseline. This includes while you are at work and when you get home to immediately relax on the sofa. A sedentary lifestyle can increase your chances of suffering from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic illness, and cancer. Not to mention, remaining stationary for so many hours slows the metabolism and increases the risk of passive weight gain. Needless to say, people weren’t meant to sit for hours on end!
To remedy this, proper workplace ergonomics and design should include standing workstations that allow workers to alternate their position throughout the day. Voluntary movement from sitting to a standing position will naturally reset your posture, helping prevent slumping or strain on any one area of the body. It also burns more calories, improves blood flow, and manages blood sugar levels. Not to mention, work is much more enjoyable when you can move between positions. If you are someone who likes to fidget while doing work, a sit-stand desk is perfect to help focus your attention, or inattention.
How Long Should You Stand at a Sit-Stand Desk?
We aren’t saying you have to stand the entire day…the ideal stand to sit ratio is somewhere between 1:1 and 3:1, which equates to thirty minutes of standing followed by thirty minutes of sitting at a minimum and up to 45 minutes of standing to 15 minutes of sitting at the maximum. While 45 minutes an hour sounds like a lot of standing, you can work up to it and allow your body to adjust gradually over time. Over time, many people find that they become more comfortable standing than sitting. Instead of keeping a strict schedule, we recommend listening to your body and alternating as often as you’d like!
How Frequently Should You Move Around the Workplace?
Beyond moving between sitting and standing, it’s important to take breaks throughout the workday and move around. Whether you are working in an office or are at home, you should be taking a break for movement at least every hour. Taking five minutes to stretch, do chair yoga, fill up your coffee cup, or let your dog outside will give your mind and body a break and can leave you feeling more refreshed when you do come back to work. When it comes time for lunch, be sure to take a real lunch break, even if you are used to just eating at your desk.
Office Design Tips to Promote Productivity
You don’t have to sacrifice style to create an ergonomic office space that promotes positivity and productivity for yourself or your employees. A beautiful, contemporary office is achievable with the right standing desk combined with minimal colors, ambient lighting, plants, and soothing artwork. While some standing desks might be clunky and dated, Yaasa combines form and function in the Yaasa Adjustable Desk Pro to create a stylish piece of furniture that works for all workers and workplace designs. When employees feel relaxed and “at home” at their desks, productivity levels tend to rise!
- Lighting: Staring at a computer all day can be tiresome for your eyes, causing headaches. This effect is exacerbated when you have dim lighting or rely on only one light source. To aid your eyes, try multiple light sources in the room that are low level and ambient. Natural light is of course preferable for office spaces, although you do not want the window behind you. Any light that causes a glare on your screen should be avoided.
- Temperature: If an office is too hot or too cold, the comfort and productivity levels of employees will fall. While factors like age, BMI, sex, and humidity affect what temperature is ideal, a temperature between 68 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended by OSHA. This range is backed by a study performed at the Univ. of Chicago, which found that the productivity tipping point for employees was 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Colors: Color has a profound impact on our mood as well as productivity levels while in the office. A bold color like red, for example, increases the speed and intensity of your reactions. Therefore, it can actually cause anxiety while at work. The best colors for work are softer, like light blue, pale yellow, and gray. These colors create a sense of serenity to help you focus, boost creativity, and provide a neutral, calming backdrop.
- Plants: Incorporating natural greenery into your office design provides multifold benefits to employees. According to research studies published in Science Daily, productivity levels increase by 15% when an office adds plants to their space. People naturally feel calmer around plants because it provides the sense of being outside with nature. Not to mention, indoor plants also filter the air to reduce circulating airborne toxins. Some favorite office plants include a snake plant, ZZ plant, and Peace Lily.
- Art: Spruce up your space with original artwork that will boost wellbeing in the office. Whether you prefer paintings or photographs, drawings, or sculpture, art has the power to completely transform a room and create a positive mood. If you are looking to create a quiet and Zen aesthetic, choose minimal black and white artwork or photography for your office. For a more bright and uplifting theme, a colorful abstract will provide intrigue and excitement to your space.
How to Avoid Eye Strain at Work
Besides your neck and back, your eyes are also likely to feel the strain of working at a computer all day. While taking frequent breaks is helpful, there are other ways to protect your eyes at the office. When and where possible throughout the day, avoid looking at screens. For example, try to do some of your work, like meeting with clients away in person in order to give your eyes a rest from a monitor / phone. Add a humidifier if the office is very dry. You can always use eye drops to put moisture back into your tired eyes.
Other Ways to Create an Ergonomic Workspace
- Anti-Fatigue Mats: Anti-Fatigue mats utilize what is known as “dynamic ergonomics.” This means that when you use them, the muscles of your legs are constantly in subtle motion to improve circulation and keep you upright. They are great for helping alleviate back pain and can help prevent unsightly varicose veins from forming. Anti-fatigue mats are durable surfaces that are often made from foam, gel, or rubber. They have been found to reduce the strain of standing for long periods of time. If you are used to standing on very hard floors like concrete, an anti-fatigue mat is recommended.
- Footrests: To rest your feet throughout the day and help prevent foot discomfort, many people enjoy using a footrest under their desk. A footrest allows you to alternate from standing on one leg to the other as a means of shifting weight throughout the day.
- Proper Footwear: You should generally opt for comfortable shoes with arch support rather than high heels. Ergonomics work best if you are cooperating with all suggestions, including wearing supportive shoes. If you experience foot pain or discomfort regularly, you should first look into orthotic insoles for your shoes to provide additional support.
- Schedule Break Time: With an office space that is ergonomic, the next best way to help yourself throughout the workday is to take frequent breaks. According to a randomized study of workers, the most productive took breaks that were approximately 17 minutes long every 52 minutes. This allows time for you to walk around and reset your mind. It’s also much better for your eyes to allow them precious time away from the screen.
Creating an ergonomic workspace can be overly expensive and complicated. Here at Yaasa, we created a solution that makes sense. Yaasa Adjustable Desks are affordable, easy to set up and use, and come with sleek customization options, making them a popular selection for students, remote workers, and corporate offices.
Medically Reviewed by Josh Barber, MD June 7th, 2021.