If you're an office worker, you probably understand the struggle of the need to sit throughout your day - it can be a real pain, figuratively and literally, to get up and move at the end of your 8 hours.
So, how can you set up your office for your body's success?
Maybe you've heard of ergonomics, which is essentially taking into context the person, your characteristics, what you use a space for, and other underlying conditions (like low back pain) when setting up a space.
Tips for Your Office Setup
Here are some ways you can adjust your office setup to fit your needs:
1) Take stock of what you do
Are you constantly printing things out, moving between your desk and bending down to pick up something off the printer? Are you always making phone calls without a headset to help you? Do you have two screens that make you turn your neck or put you in an awkward posture?
What can you change to make the flow of your work easier? Maybe your printer needs to be on top of your desk or directly next to you. Maybe you need to have a headset so that you're not holding a phone for hours on end.
Think about what you use your space for and how long you spend doing tasks in that space. What do those tasks consist of and how can you minimize repetitive movements like bending, lifting, or twisting? Change up your space to work for you and support your flow throughout the day.
2) Take frequent rest breaks
Whether you're sitting, standing, or moving around, breaks are essential. No one position is good for too long - it's recommended that you take breaks every 30 minutes or so. You can get up and stretch, grab some water, go to the bathroom, or just stand up and move around for a moment before sitting down again. Your body needs movement, so don't forget this important step!
3) Set up your equipment
Chairs are tricky - you need to think about your body and your needs for a chair. A few things are key: get a chair that adjusts first and foremost.
You need to be able to sit at the right height - your feet should be firmly planted on the floor or on a stool with your knees at about your hip height.
You need the right seat depth for your body - while sitting, place a few fingers or your fist behind your knee, you should have about that amount of space between the back of your knee and the edge of the chair.
Think about your back support - everyone needs back support from a chair; just make sure your chair isn't putting you in an awkward posture. It should have a bit of a natural curve that incorporates your posture, and if recommended by a healthcare provider, you might look into chairs that provide additional back support.
Arm rests may not be necessary after all - they can put your shoulders in a heightened position, when ideally you need your shoulders down and relaxed. If you have them, make sure they are parallel to the floor, and they should never prevent you from getting close to your desk.
You need to be able to reach your desk when your chair is adjusted so that your feet are placed firmly on the ground or on a stool.
What about those standing desks?
For some, it may be a worthwhile investment. However, as I said earlier, you'll still need breaks. You don't want to be sitting for too long or standing for too long, so keep that in mind when you're researching desks. If you're really not able to step away from your computer to take frequent breaks, it may be worth investing in a sit-to-stand desk. However, keep in mind that the dynamics change when you're standing, and you'll still need to have your computer at your eye level, and your keyboard and mouse around your elbow height, so keep that in mind, as well.
The computer should be directly in front of you - you shouldn't be turning or twisting to see it all day long. If you have a dual monitor, place the one you use most often directly in front of you. While there are recommendations for the distance the screen should be from you, just remember that it's your eyes - don't keep it too close and don't leave it far away from you; find a happy medium. A quick way to adjust is to give it an arm's length distance, and make sure that your monitor is at your eye level.
Keyboard & Mouse
Your shoulders should be down and back, and your elbows should be relaxed and sit at 90 degrees when you are typing. Your wrists should be neutral - not bending too much and not extended, either, and you shouldn't feel like you are placing weight through your wrists while typing - they should be pretty relaxed. It's the same idea for your mouse; both your keyboard and mouse should sit roughly at your elbow height. It may be worth considering purchasing a bluetooth keyboard and mouse if you're using a laptop. You shouldn't need to reach for your keyboard, it should sit close enough to you that your arms stay relaxed while typing.
What it all comes down to is that you know your body best, so keep in mind what you need to do throughout the day and research what you can do to keep your body relaxed and gently moving. Key features are taking frequent breaks, knowing the context of your office, keeping things you use frequently close to you, and setting up your office to fit your flow.
If you are a person who experiences pain during the workday, you can certainly try these tips out, but follow up with a healthcare provider, like a physical therapist, to address pain, especially if it is ongoing.
1) "Office Ergonomics - Environment, Health And Safety". Environment, Health And Safety
2) "Office Ergonomics | Michigan Medicine". Uofmhealth.Org
, 2020, https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tr5915#tr5917
3) Habibi, Ehsanollah, and Shiva Soury. “The effect of three ergonomics interventions on body posture and musculoskeletal disorders among stuff of Isfahan Province Gas Company.” Journal of education and health promotion
vol. 4 65. 6 Aug. 2015, doi:10.4103/2277-9531.162386
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