Home office desk ergonomicsIn trying to figure out how best to utilize our time in the office, we oftentimes get caught up in systems and technology. While it is absolutely true that you may find yourself being far more productive when you adhere to the pomodoro technique for your work sessions, there’s one area that frequently goes neglected: desk ergonomics. If you’re not comfortable sitting at your desk, your work is going to suffer.

The following tips for improving the ergonomics of your workstations are based on a couple of key assumptions. First, you have your own dedicated desk and it’s not shared with anyone else. Second, the overwhelming majority of your work is done on a computer and with a keyboard and mouse. The principles can still apply for people who use other peripherals, like graphics tablets, but they might need to be altered or adapted.

Sit Up Straight (But Not Right)

Despite the rising popularity of standing desks notwithstanding, no pun intended, most people still sit in front of their computers. And most people go in with the assumption that the ideal posture to take in front of your computer is a series of 90-degree right angles. They think your back, thighs, calves and feet should be joined together like a perfect staircase. And that’s not exactly true.

It’s actually much better if your back and upper legs form more of a 100-degree angle. This alleviates some pressure off the lower part of your spine and your tailbone, making for a more comfortable working position.

“B” Is For Belly Button

Where do you place your keyboard?

Where do you place your keyboard?

Assuming that you are right-handed, you probably have your mouse off to the right side of your keyboard. And whether or not your desk has a slide-out keyboard tray, there’s a good chance you might be centering this combination in front of you. That would be bad. And the image above is even worse with the keyboard askew and the mouse in front of it.

You don’t even necessarily want to center yourself on the keyboard, because the numeric keypad to the right makes for an asymmetrical design. What you want to do is align your belly button with the “B” key on your keyboard. This minimizes awkward reaching and twisting of your body.

The Importance of Lumbar Support

When choosing your office chair, you want one that comes with as many adjustment options as possible. Ideally, you want one where you can not only adjust the height of the seat, but also its angle, plus the height and angle of the backrest, as well as the positions of the armrests (if it has armrests).

One area of desk ergonomics that some people forget is lumbar support. Back cushions should not be straight, because your back has a natural curve to it. Even chairs claim to have lumbar support, but it can be inadequate. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to grab an extra cushion to support your lower back. By pushing your lower back forward, you’ll reduce the temptation to slouch too.

Do You See What I See?

Ergonomics by the numbers (by Ergotron)

Ergonomics by the numbers (by Ergotron)

Another common mistake is placing your computer monitor directly on the surface of your desk. For the average person, the screen is then too low, forcing you to lurch your neck downward for prolonged periods of time. You should be trying to align your eye level with an imaginary line about two inches below the top of the screen. This allows your eyes to look just below the horizon to see the center of the screen. Use a riser or shelf if necessary.

The workspace planner on Ergotron (shown above) is a great place to get the measurements you want, including the height of your keyboard, seat and screen. Just enter your height and it fills in the rest.

On Clutter and Arm’s Reach

They say that a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind. And as desirable as a bigger desk may seem, it could actually be counterproductive from the perspective of your desk ergonomics.

When you have to lean and twist and turn constantly in order to get the things you need, you can strain your body unnecessarily and cause all sorts of long-term injuries. Keep your key items literally within arm’s reach. Things you use more rarely can be placed somewhere else.

Image credit: jnyemb / Flickr