We’ve all experienced some office-furniture-related pain while working long hours at a desk. But it’s tempting to ignore the daily aches and pains when you’re just plain busy.
Whether you’re a wellness professional in charge of helping others stay healthy or simply a victim of the 21st century trying to avoid fatigue, following a few simple guidelines can help you significantly improve your workspace.
Why Should I Care About Office Ergonomics?
The goal of office ergonomics is to design your office work station so that it fits you and increases your comfort, productivity, and efficiency. An ergonomically correct office work station will help you avoid fatigue and discomfort – and who doesn’t want that?
Neck and back issues from working at a desk—or on a laptop—are a painful reality for many of us. Desk pains do surprisingly significant financial damage, too. Almost $1 billion every week is spent on work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the US, and most of them are caused by small flaws in body positioning.
Luckily, that also means these damages are preventable by tweaking your work environment!
Making an effort to avoid desk pain is essential to creating a thriving workplace. Research shows that when employees are comfortable in their physical environment, they’re more productive and motivated by the work they produce.
The good news is that you’re not doomed to a career of neck and back pain or sore wrists and fingers just because you sit at a desk.
As a physical trainer and Kinesiologist, here are my top tips on relieving pain while working! Use this five-step approach to set up an ergonomic desk and add a little more zen to your day.
1. Watch Where You Look
Keep your monitor at eye level. When your monitor is above or below the field of vision, your neck falls out of alignment. The muscles in the neck work best when all of the neck’s discs are stacked on top of each other. To achieve alignment, make sure your screen sits right at eye level at an arm’s length away.
Another neck saving tip is to hold your phone instead of wedging the phone between your neck and shoulder. Getting a handsfree headset or using speakerphone when working with your hands on the phone can prevent head, neck, and shoulder problems over time.
2) Check Your Elbows
One of the most important things many of us miss when we are building an ergonomic workspace is where our elbows rest. If you haven’t set up an ergonomic desk, you could be too far away from your keyboard and mouse.
The most straightforward change you can make is to get a chair with armrests. This will support your posture and reduce fatigue from the daily grind. When choosing a chair, also check to make sure that your feet can comfortably reach the ground. Feet planted firmly on the ground prevents a lot of potential low back pain down the line. If you don’t have access to a chair that makes it easy for your feet to reach the ground, think about getting a footrest. Remember, a significant portion of your life might be spent in this position!
3. Avoid the Bad Kind of Stretching
In the same vein as above, make sure that everything you use is within easy reaching distance.
When your arms are stretched continuously out to type or move your mouse, it causes the muscles in your arms, elbows, wrists, shoulders, hands, and, most importantly, your neck can suffer. You can reduce overuse in these areas by making sure your typing position keeps your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
If you store things on your desk, make sure you don’t need to stretch to reach them. Items that are used infrequently can ignore this rule, but for things that you use consistently, make sure you can reach them easily.
4. Master the Art of Sitting
Remember to sit up straight, or better yet, stand!
If you do opt to sit, make sure that you are seated all the way back in the chair. Sitting upright and back gives your chair the ability to support your lower and upper back. Letting the chair do the work will help improve your posture and prevent head, neck, and shoulder pain. Likewise, sitting in an upright position with your shoulders relaxed and head looking forward will keep you comfortable in and out of the office!
5. Keep it Moving
Make it a point to get up at least once an hour to walk around. This is essential to keeping your body in check. No matter how ergonomic your desk is, our bodies are still built to move. Even if you only get up to grab more coffee or run to the restroom, the movement makes a big difference in your health!
About the Writer: Pete Haglund has been a personal trainer and a Kinesiologist. Today, he serves as a Client Success Manager at Selene Marketing, where he helps wellness practitioners help others.