One of the conversations I have most frequently with my clients is about desk set up. Do I really need a standing desk? What is the best chair for taller people? My home set-up isn’t as good as my office set-up…should I invest more in it? What even is a good desk set-up? These are all questions I hear regularly. And the answers are so important! We might spend more cumulative hours at our desks than just about anywhere else. Of course we all strive for a good work life balance, but the reality is work takes up a large portion of our time. We can do all of the hands-on work in our sessions and you can do all of your exercises at home, but we are fighting an uphill battle if your daily ergonomics are working against us!
Here are a few key tips on how to set your office up for success:
- Key ergonomics
There are a few key ergonomic checkpoints that you can look at to ensure your body is as comfortable and injury-risk-free:
- Your elbows, hips and knees should all be bent to approximately 100 degrees when seated with your hands on your keyboard. I would recommend working from the ground up on this one.
- Step one: Sit in your chair with feet flat on the ground and raise or lower the seat until your hips and knees are around 100 degrees.
- Step two: Put your hands on your keyboard and see where they fall. If the keyboard is too low it should be easy to raise it by putting your keyboard and mouse on a raised surface. If it is too high, this may be tougher to fix without a change in the actual desk.
- Your eyes should be level with the top third of the computer screen.
- If you have two monitors, make sure you balance where you are looking the most. You can either:
- Make sure you face directly in the middle of the two monitors OR
- If you prefer to look at one screen most of the time and just glance at the other one when needed, I would recommend switching which screen has what information every couple of months. This way you alternate which direction you are looking.
Lastly, if you work on a laptop, I hate to break it to you but you will NEVER be able to achieve both the elbows at 100 degrees parameter AND the eyes at the top third of the screen parameter. Either your hands will be too high and elbows too bent to allow your eyes to be at the correct level OR your hands will be the right height and you will be looking down all day. Neither of these is ideal. I would highly recommend purchasing a separate keyboard and mouse to avoid the potential issues from the laptop set up overtime.
- Variety is the spice of life
The reality is we are not going to achieve one perfect set-up or one perfect posture all day long. “Ideal” is not one position, but a variety of “fairly good” postures all day long. This is why I love standing desks- you can add standing into the mix of the variety of postures in addition to all of the different ways you can sit. That being said, even without a standing desk you can vary your posture in your chair quite a bit. If you know you usually cross your right leg over your left, make sure to swap it every time you catch yourself. If you know you tend to slump to the right during phone calls, then slump to the left. If you find yourself getting closer to the screen the harder you focus, rest your back on your chair each time you think of it. Just mix it up!
If you are worried maybe you won’t catch yourself or won’t think of these things, here are a few ideas to consider:
- Set a timer for every 30 minutes to remind yourself to stand up, change it up, or do a mobility exercise.
- Consider purchasing a standing desk to easily have more varied positions available.
- Consider an exercise ball as an alternative seat option. If you decide to try this route, make sure the ball is big enough for your knees to be in that 100 degree angle. And please do not buy the ball and sit on it for 8 hours straight the first day!! You want to wean into this just as you would a new orthotic.
- If you’re still working both at home and in the office, it’s time to make BOTH set-ups comfortable
I know many of us had a big shift in routine when the pandemic first struck. And perhaps this initial shift has turned into a different work structure and cadence in the long term. If you are still working from both locations, I’d say it’s time to make both office set ups comfortable. I realize this involves a little bit of an investment- for some more than others depending on what equipment you feel has elevated your work experience. However, for the amount of time you will cumulatively spend in each place, it will be worth it. Your body will thank you. The set-ups do not have to be the exact same- maybe you like the idea of having a different feel or structure in the different locations. But they need to both be supportive of your body and its needs. Try taking a moment to evaluate how your body feels at the end of the day at each location. Do you notice more fatigue in your low back after a day in the office vs at home? Do you notice more tension in your shoulders after a day at home vs in the office? Listen to your body and make the necessary changes to feel as good as you can for as long as you can in your work environment.
I hope these tips help make your day-to-day work life more comfortable so that you can do all you want to do when you are off the clock! Please click here if you want to schedule an ergonomic assessment to troubleshoot the details.