Guest post by Gina Casillo
40% of American jobs involve sitting in front of a computer for eight or more hours a day, and few white-collar workers know the damage their workspace could be doing to their bodies. Your nerves, muscles, and circulatory system are simply not designed for the average workstation, and yours could be serious trouble without an ergonomic overhaul. Here are a few steps to create a healthier, more comfortable office.
1. Your Monitor
If you hunch down or squint to look at your display, it needs to be adjusted. Keep the display at least 20 inches away, with the top of the screen approximately at eye level. Also, if your display is pitched so that you have to lean back or bend over to see clearly, it needs adjustment. As a general principle, your devices should move to accommodate your position, not the other way around. If, after adjusting the display, you still have to strain to see clearly, consider getting your vision checked—squinting and straining for hours at a time at work can exacerbate existing vision problems.
2. Your laptop
Laptops are handy and energy efficient, but designers have a tough time creating ergonomic laptops because the keyboard and display are forced too close together—you either have to stoop down to see the monitor or bend your arms unnaturally to type. To circumvent this problem, get a plug-and-play keyboard and mouse, then place the laptop as you would a normal display, so your laptop can be just as ergonomically friendly as a desktop.
3. Your chair
Just like your bed and your shoes, you’ll spend a great deal of your life in your office chair—so make sure it’s a good one. The seat pan should be long enough that the full length of your thigh is supported, but short enough that you can lean directly against the back support. A seat that is too short can pinch nerves and blood vessels in your thighs, causing or aggravating varicose veins and sciatica. A seat that is too long can cause you to slouch for lack of lumbar support, which can lead to weakened or strained spinal muscles. For the same reason, your chair should not just have a small pad for your middle back—it should provide complete lumbar (lower back) support, to prevent slouching and curvature while you work. Buy a chair with full lumbar support and wide, well-cushioned armrests, and don’t be afraid to shop around and test chairs out before you buy—different people have different bodies and ergonomic needs.
4. Your desk
Ideally, your desk should include a rolling adjustable tray for your keyboard, so you can find a custom fit for your body. You should be able to type with your back straight and your elbows naturally bent. Particularly if you’re an employer buying multiple desks, an adjustable tray allows for a one-size-fits-all purchase that will make each employee more comfortable.
5. Your keyboard
Some users prefer so-called ergonomic keyboards, height and placement are much more important than the layout of the keys. If you can place the keyboard directly in front of you and type with your shoulders relaxed and your wrists straight, and it’s comfortable for you, stick with a traditional keyboard. Most importantly, you shouldn’t have to shrug your shoulders or bend your wrists—this can leave you sore at the end of the day, and even cause repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. If a special ergonomic keyboard is more comfortable for you, use it—but it’s strictly a matter of taste.
Gina Casillo is a staff writer for Serenity Living Stores, your Ergo-friendly place of choice to buy an Eames chair. Gina enjoys writing about home décor—especially when it comes to the spaces she’s most intimate with—decorating the perfect play spaces and bedrooms for her two active twin boys, and decorating the ideal work sanctuary.