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Working pain-free with perfect office ergonomics – how to set up your desk

A comfortable workspace can help you feel your best. Give your sitting work area a makeover with this visual guide to office ergonomics.

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ergonomics and physiotherapy
Desk jobs can result in all kinds of pain – and not just missed deadlines. Neck, back, wrist and finger pain are not inevitable – by setting up your workspace correctly, you can avoid some of the most common issues and be productive in comfort.
It’s important to pay attention to the relative heights of your desk, chair and screen, their orientation, and how far apart they are.

Follow these tips to feel better at work

  • Look at the positioning of your monitor
    • Adjust your chair or screen so that your eyes are level with the top of the screen, and position it so that you can easily read the text.
    • You may need to increase the font size or zoom in to prevent eye strain.
    • Rather than hunch over a laptop, invest in a second, larger screen.
    • Position additional monitors depending on how often you use each one. Your primary monitor should be directly in front of you, with the secondary monitor to the side. If you use them equally, position them in a shallow ‘V’ shape in front of you, with their edges touching.
       
  • Get a grip on your mouse or keyboard
    • Ideally, your forearms should be parallel to the floor, or pointing slightly down. Your wrists should also be parallel to the floor – adjust your chair or desk to achieve this. A wrist rest may be helpful here.
       
  • Reach out…
    • Keep the equipment you use often, within easy reach.
    • Headsets and document holders can avoid the need to look down.
    • Shortcut keys can cut down on how much work your fingers do.
    • Stand to get things that are further away, rather than reaching.
       
  • Are you sitting comfortably?
    • Your chair should allow you to maintain the natural curves of your spine, rather than slouching or sitting unnaturally upright.
       
  • Stay grounded
    • Adjust your chair so that your feet can reach the ground, or buy a footrest.
    • Keep the back of your knees about 5cm from the edge of your seat.

 

  • Get into good habits
    • Avoid long periods of sitting down – try to move or stretch at least every 30 minutes. Visit a colleague, get a glass of water, or walk or stretch during a cal.
    • Get a colleague to take a picture of you at your desk, to help you identify any posture issues and work out how to solve them.
    • Use the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, give your eyes a break by looking at something that’s 20 feet (6m) away for 20 seconds.
    • Consider getting a standing workstation!

IS A STANDING DESK THE ANSWER?

A standing desk lets you change position between sitting and standing during your working day. Many people find that standing desks lead to reduced joint pain, greater productivity and even improved mood and psychological health.

Sitting down for long periods can cause very health issues, to the extent that sitting has been called ‘the new cancer’. Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and varicose veins have all been linked to a sedentary lifestyle. Even regular exercise may not be enough to reverse these negative effects.

Standing desk benefits

  • Reduced joint pain and musculoskeletal disorders (like sciatica and carpal tunnel).
  • Fewer days off due to pain or illness.
  • Improved productivity.

 

What to look for in a standing desk

Stability – a wobbly desk can be annoying and even lead to expensive equipment falling off.
 
Weight capacity – Choose a standing desk that can easily support all the equipment you need, including extra monitors, books,etc.
 
Design – Does your standing desk have enough space, including storage areas for accessories?

Customisation – How easily can it be adjusted to meet your specific needs?

Making the move to a standing desk

Ideally, your working day should include a mix of sitting and standing. If you’ve not used a standing desk before, it’s important to make a gradual transition. You have already learned that it is best to incorporate a mix of standing and sitting into your workday. If you want to set yourself up for sit-and-stand desk success, keep the following guidelines in mind.

Begin with short periods of standing as intervals between times when you’re seated. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend standing until your day is roughly evenly split between standing and sitting.

Standing for too long can also be harmful, so beware of any leg or back pain. As with all training exercise, your body needs time to adjust.

A timer can help remind you when to change position, while a floor mat beneath your feet could make you more comfortable. Stretch regularly, and wear shoes that prioritise support over style.

Most importantly of all, ensure that your new workstation enables you to maintain correct posture whether you’re sitting or standing. When you’re in ‘standing mode’, the set-up of your desk should allow you keep your head, neck, torso and legs roughly in a vertical line.

Conclusion

Standing desks can make a real difference to your working day, making you more comfortable, more productive, and less prone to negative health outcomes.

As with any change in your life, introducing it gradually and going through a period of adjustment is probably best.

BAILEY HENCHIE PHYSIOTHERAPY INC

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