10 Quick Tips For a More Ergonomic Desk Setup

 

For many modern office workers, ergonomics may be an after thought. Unfortunately, with more workers spending long hours behind a desk, the number of injuries related to poor ergonomics has skyrocketed in recent years. Consider these 10 quick tips for a more ergonomic desk setup, which may just prevent you from developing tendonitis, an overuse injury, or worse.

1. Adjust your monitor to the proper height

Head Positioning

The top of the monitor should be at eye level.

Ideally the top of your monitor will be roughly at eye level. Too often I see folks who are hunched over their desk because of a poorly positioned monitor. If the monitor you are using causes you to bend at the neck or upper back, do something about it! One technique that I have found works well is to grab a couple reams of paper from the copy room. Stack the reams of paper under your monitor until the position is just right.

2. Move your arm wrests out of the way

It is tempting to use the arm wrests on your office chair as a crutch while using the mouse. Unfortunately, doing so often results in poor mousing habits. Ideally, you want to mouse with the entire arm so as to limit the strain on any particular joint. Thus, resting your arms on arm wrests while using a mouse can actually cause injury. My suggestion: lower the arm wrests or remove them entirely.

3. Adjust your seat height

Proper Sitting Posture

A seat height that is too low will naturally cause you cross your legs or do other strange things in order to fit your legs under a chair that is too short. A seat height that is too high will put unnecessary pressure on your thighs and the back of your legs. Either situation is bad for leg circulation. Position your seat such that your knees form a 90 degree angle.  Also, be sure to use a chair that provides proper support.  Check out our guide to the best ergonomic office chairs for some ideas.

4. Adjust your desk height

Ideally, when your forearms are positioned on the keyboard and mouse, your arms will fall comfortably at your sides. In order to dial in the most relaxed position, this typically means adjusting your desk such that your elbows form a 90 degree angle with your torso.

5. Mix it up

One of the keys to avoiding RSI injuries at work is to mix it up every now and then. If you’re tired of sitting, stand up. When you’re tired of standing, sit down. One way to accomplish this is to use a sit-stand desk. By avoiding repeating the same patterns over and over again, you are less likely to develop an overuse injury.

6. Take breaks

In addition to varying your working posture, it is important to take breaks every now and then to get away from work entirely. If you have been starting at a monitor at close range for an hour, stare off into the distance for a while. Stretch or take a walk. Take a few deep breaths. Not only will taking a break allow you to relax for a minute, but it may actually help you think through a difficult problem or see things in a different light

7. Sit up straight

While your desk setup can influence your posture, many posture issues are musculoskeletal at their core. Consider a weight training program to counteract muscle imbalances that may develop from sitting for long periods of time. Products such as the lumo lift can provide a friendly reminder when you slouch at work.

8. Use an ergonomic mouse

Arm Position

Your arms should fall to your side naturally.

Many modern mouse designs include ergonomic features that may lessen the strain placed on your wrist. Find a mouse that fits your hand comfortably and is easy to manipulate. Doing so can reduce the likelihood of developing tendonitis or other joint injuries.

9. Low glare environment

Ensuring proper lighting can go a long way in reducing eye strain associated with working at a computer monitor. There are two key factors to consider. First, try to avoid bright specular lighting, which can result in bright spots or glare on your monitor. Moderating outdoor light with window shades can also help reduce glare. Second, ensure that the level of ambient light does not wash out the contrast of your monitor. In short, you want your monitor to be as easy to read as possible.

10. Change your contrast settings

Editor Fonts

Larger fonts and improved contrast can reduce eye strain.

Consider installing a program such as f.lux, which moderates monitor color warmth and contrast throughout the day. In addition, ,any word processors and coding IDEs allow you to change the default contrast settings to a dark or light theme which may make text easier to read.

No amount of ergonomic tinkering will prevent any and all possible strains that may develop from long hours behind a desk. However, taking these 10 quick tips into account is a good first step to ensuring a more healthy workplace environment.

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