Is your desk set-up secretly causing aches and pains?
I used to be the go-to person in my last few job positions for health and safety when it came to setting up workstations, specifically the ergonomics. With a massive pool of employees that either worked in customer service, or 2D and 3D animation for film and television, people were sitting at their desks for long periods of time, and frequently complained of back, neck, and shoulder strain… enter my lovely smiling face to visit their work area and help set things up so they could be more comfortable.
The biggest issue around back, neck, and shoulder pain mainly came down to muscle fatigue from prolonged amounts of time in a fixed position. It’s important to get up and move around every 45 min to an hour. In fact, I set a timer when I work to remind me to get up and do something else. Typically, I will spread my chores through the day for these intermissions. It not only gives your body a break from being in a seated position, but also helps reduce eye strain from staring at a fixed depth (of the computer screen) and a reprieve from monitor glare.
The next important issue has to do with posture and placement of the keyboard, monitor, mouse and other regularly used items. Without getting into all the specific angles, I’ll attach a few diagrams for reference. But the best gauge is that your feet are meant to comfortably reach the floor (flat feet,) with no pressure on your thighs, elbows level with, or slightly higher than the desk surface, and your monitor positioned straight in front of you. When looking straight ahead, your eyes should hit around the top of the monitor. Regularly used items (keyboard, mouse, etc) should be easily reachable with your elbows near the sides of your torso. Items used a lesser amount can be placed further back on your desk.
All of this keeps you in a natural seated, and relaxed position, avoiding having to hold your body or limbs in unnatural positions for any extended length of time.
From there you can address if you need lower back (lumbar) support cushions, seat framing to keep your hips even with a shaped cushion, or even a shoulder/back harness to stop you from slouching forward. There are other elements you can use to help set up your workspace, like footrests, laptop stands, a standing desk (you can purchase ones that can convert from seating to standing with the press of a button these days.) Different types of chairs, or the kneeling seats or even the exercise balls instead of a chair to force you to use your core muscles to keep you stabilized. It’s important to find what works best for you to avoid injury from strain, or being frozen in a fixed position for too long.
Of course all hazards and wires are safely stored with cable ties and the like. Ensure you have adequate lighting and try to avoid clutter on your work surface.
I only just gave my workstation an ergonomic assessment as I was finding the number of hours I could work comfortably in a day was reducing… it turns out my monitor was too low and off to the left side, and as the day went on I was hunching over more and more until I started getting a lower back ache or headache. Now that everything has been correctly situated, my productivity is picking up and the niggling pain dissipated.
When I originally organised my home office, I had set it up to be aesthetically pleasing using some gorgeous Pinterest pictures as inspiration. And yes, it looked pretty, but was not necessarily the best functioning. I feel like such a doofus for not thinking about the ergonomics earlier.
How did your workspace fair after reading this information? Do you get eyestrain or back pain from the hours you spend writing… let me know if any of these tips help you.
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