Ergonomically Optimize Your Work Space

Like many people, I spend a lot of time in front of my computer. Hours of sitting down in more or less the same position. To prevent injuring myself, I’ve taken measures and made sure that my work space is ergonomically correct. Here are my tips to set up an office to be as comfortable as possible.

I’m currently using a sitting desk setup. Some people prefer to stand while working at their computer. This article will focus on the sitting desk.

The Hardware You Need

While it is possible to buy or build the perfect, ergonomic office environment, I’ve just modified what I already had. So here are the basic things you need for creating a better workspace:

Chair

  • Seat cushion: Your chair should have a comfortable seat. Even with the comfortable seat of my chair, I still get up once in a while to get the blood circulation going.
  • Armrests: Armrests are important. However, they must be low enough that your shoulders stay relaxed and your elbows are bent at a 90 degree angle.
  • Back rest and lumbar support: While it’s nice to be able to adjust the angle and height of the back rest, lumbar support is crucial. Many cheap chairs don’t provide good lumbar support as they have straight back rests. Our backs are slightly curved and your chair should support your lower back well.

Table

My desk is a standard height (about 80cm) IKEA desk. It’s usually easier and cheaper to adjust your chair height than the table, so I’ve kept this table even though it’s far from ideal.

Your table should be big enough to comfortably fit your keyboard, mouse, monitor and anything else you need in your workspace. Remember that your monitor should be at an arms length or more from your eyes. You table should be deep enough to accommodate this.

Monitor, keyboard and mouse

When I first created a home office, I just placed the keyboard and mouse randomly on the desk. Now, however, they’re placed with ergonomics in mind.

Computer Monitor at the right heightThe keyboard should be with the alphanumeric keys centered in front of you and the mouse as close as possible to the keyboard. I prefer a very low keyboard (Logitech K740, anyone?) to avoid having to lift my fingers. Also, your choice of mouse should fit your hand and provide good support while using it.

I find that a 22 to 27 inch monitor works well at about an arms length from my eyes. The height of the screen is important: The top of the screen should be slightly above eye level. My monitor stand doesn’t lift the screen enough. So I created a 2-tier office desk to lift the monitor higher.

Make an Effort and Take a Break

Even with my close-to-perfect setup I still find myself slouching in the chair. So once in a while I pull myself up, put the back into the chair and straighten myself.

It’s important to make an effort with your posture, as you otherwise won’t benefit from your ergonomically correct workspace – or even worse, you may end up injuring yourself over time.

Breaks are sometimes undervalued by a busy person, and I’m no exception. However, the body and mind need breaks. You can install software that’ll remind you or just be aware of the time. Ever heard of the 20-20-20 rule? Neither had I, but I came across it researching this article. It goes like this: Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen for 20 seconds at something that’s 20 ft away (6 meters). Generally, the further away you can gaze the better. Also, every 50 or 60 minutes, take a 5 to 10 minutes break.

There are also internet resources that can help you setup a good workspace. Have a look at The Workspace Planner to adjust the height of your screen, chair, table etc.

While this article isn’t exploring all options for creating a more comfortable workspace, I hope it’ll provide you with the basic steps in protecting your body while working at a computer.

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