There’s a big chance you’re slouching right now while reading this, or maybe your neck’s too bent while reading. Well, that’s no good. You need to practice some workstation ergonomics.
While it’s great that life is a lot safer and more comfortable now for the average Joe or Jane, there are huge downsides to desk jobs. As it turns out, sitting for eight hours per day is still not something the human body is used to or even designed for. We still haven’t evolved much past our ancestors’ active hunting or farming lifestyles. Thankfully, you can always alleviate the damage and pressure of long-term desk jobs with proper workstation ergonomics.
Ergonomics is not exactly a foolproof solution compared to a more active lifestyle when it comes to reversing or countering the effects of desk jobs, but it will help in reducing neck or lower back pain.
In turn, proper workstation ergonomics can increase your productivity. So it’s a positive chain or domino effect of benefits for your long-term health while working. Take note of these checklist actions for posture and ergonomics improvements.
Proper Sitting Posture
First up is what your parents or school teachers have been drilling into your head since the day you could sit. Turns out their advice has plenty of merits and isn’t just out of obtuse strictness. We all should have listened because proper sitting posture could have prevented numerous back pains and could even correct your spine to give you your true height (bad posture reduces height, after all).
Here’s what you need to keep in mind for the proper sitting posture, according to experts:
- Sit up straight.
- Rest your back and neck on the chair (headrests are a plus here).
- Keep your shoulder back but relaxed.
- Align your head with your neck (tuck your chin).
- Keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle as much as possible.
- Plant your feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your legs parallel to the floor.
Your brain or muscles might get bored sustaining this position for hours, which is why it’s important to have a good chair that fully cradles your back to minimize that tension. If you still find the need to shift position or ruin the posture every so often, consider a different chair or simply standing up to stretch before assuming the proper sitting posture again.
Proper Typing Posture
Even if your sitting posture is perfect and sustained, the wrong hand or wrist position on the keyboard can still do damage to your wrists (carpal tunnel syndrome). At the very least, improper typing posture can cause premature fatigue in your fingers and hands while typing.
The proper typing posture is as follows:
- As much as possible, your hand must hover over the keyboard while typing. Only rest your wrist or palm if you’re not typing.
- The hand should be parallel to the keyboard. Thus, the keyboard should ideally be as flat as possible instead of angled towards you, regardless of the keyboard’s overall height.
Speaking of the keyboard’s height, some keyboards are taller than others, especially if they’re mechanical. In such cases, consider using palm rests or wrist rests to keep your hands parallel to the keyboard.
If you’re not used to hover-typing, then you’ll need to train your hands to do it. It’s worth it for keeping your wrists functioning properly through the years.
Adjust Your Monitor Height
There are tons of factors contributing to eye strain, and one of the sneakiest ones is monitor height.
Ideally, your eyes or brows should be on the same level as the top of the monitor. The monitor should also be slightly angled toward you for a better vertical viewing angle. If it’s not, then you’re either looking down too low or looking up, which is bad for both the eyes and the neck.
If your monitor does not have an adjustable height, then you can always grab a box or a stack of thick phonebooks to force the height increase.
As for the monitor’s distance, that depends on the size. If it’s around 24 inches diagonally, then at least two feet away or an arm’s length is optimal for your eyes. Anything bigger than that and you might need to be further away.
Utilize Lighting to Reduce Eye Strain
As for additional help in reducing eye strain, you can always utilize a multitude of light sources that aren’t too intense. This is where the monitor light bar comes in. It helps in illuminating your keyboard and mouse area; it also provides contrast to the monitor light.
You can further provide more ambient light contrast by sticking some LED strips to the back of the monitor. This light (colored or otherwise) will shine on the wall or desk space behind the monitor, thus providing another source of light so your eyes don’t get too fixated on the monitor.
As for how this helps with posture, do note that comfortable eyes mean reduced squinting and more often than not, reduced need for putting your head closer to the monitor. The latter head position can ruin your neck posture and weaken your neck muscles.
Besides, those poor eyes have been looking at the screen for too long, do give them something to look at.
Consider Standing Tables/Desks
With all that’s been said and done, the best prolonged posture for human beings to maintain a fitness level worthy of their ancestors is to stand up. Sitting isn’t what nature intended for human beings or most mammals.
That’s why a lot of professionals prefer standing desks or tables. There are some cheap and affordable setups that have a crank so you can increase the table’s height.
But this crank can be rather unwieldy or janky when you’re in a hurry. Hence, there are standing desks with electronic or hydraulic motors in them so that height changes are semi-automated.
Sure enough, it would take a while for you to adjust to this new and strange working posture. You might not even be able to achieve anything at all since you were so used to sitting and not minding your standing posture while working; so it’s best to adjust slowly and gradually.
Consider it first for leisurely activities such as gaming, so you can eventually get used to standing while using a computer.
Consider Smaller Keyboards
How wide your hands are apart while gaming or working is also a considerable factor when it comes to workstation ergonomics.
If your hands are too wide apart, then that means your elbows will also flare out, thus changing the tension or posture of your shoulders. This will also have an effect on the neck and the back, making it harder to maintain a proper sitting posture.
Hands wide apart might also mess with your elbow position on the armrest, further reducing comfort. It just so happens that full-sized keyboards (108+ keys) are rather demanding on space, especially if you’re using it with your mouse.
This is more apparent in gaming than work. But for example, if you’re working on an excel sheet and your tools are a full-sized keyboard with a mouse, your hands will be wider apart. Consider TKL keyboards or 75 percent keyboard layouts; these layouts sacrifice the keyboard’s numpad so; that’s mostly just suited for accountants anyway.
There are also TKL layouts that still retain the numpad, but those are rare. In any case, if you find that your elbows are constantly sliding off the armrest when you’re using the mouse and keyboard, then consider a smaller keyboard.
Use a Footrest
Last but not least is something that will help you take the load off of your legs or your back. A good footrest can be just about anything you have available that isn’t too high or too low.
Resting your feet or legs on footrests is a good way for your body to stretch and reduce tension while still sitting or without disrupting the workflow.
Keep in mind that standing up and stretching is still the best solution for uneasy or tired joints. But a footrest is a good compromise if you don’t want to disrupt your train of thought by standing up.