June 2014: Creating a Healthy, Comfortable Workspace

In the last two or three weeks, I’ve had conversations with three different people who have opted for stand-up desks or other rearrangements of their work environment, and it occurred to me that this is becoming quite the rage. So it came as no surprise to have just seen this article by Whitson Gordon entitled “How to Ergonomically Optimize Your Workspace” appear on a recent Lifehacker blog.

The following are excerpts from the article, but I would encourage those of you who might be interested to read the article in its entirety. It can be found at: http://lifehacker.com/5755870/how-to-ergonomically-optimize-your-workspace

We spend a lot of time sitting at our desks every day, and while it may not look like it, it can wreak havoc with our bodies. Here’s how to set up a healthy, ergonomic workspace to keep you comfortable and injury-free. Some of you may not realize how unfriendly your workspace is to your body, while others of you have already started experiencing repetitive strain injury from an improperly set up desk. A number of different factors can cause injuries and they may not always be obvious-for example, slouching and keeping your shoulders tense can not only cause pinched nerves in your shoulders, but even hurt your wrists. If you haven’t given a lot of thought to the comfort of your workspace, it’s probably time to give it an ergonomic makeover. Here are the most important things you’ll want to go through and change-both in your office hardware and in what you do when you’re working.

  1. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume you’re using a sitting desk. If you really want to go all-out, many people have found standing desks to be an incredible boon to their comfort, and there are tons of great DIY solutions out there.
  2. People have been talking about ergonomic office chairs for years now, but there’s no need to go plop down a bunch of cash just to be comfortable. Nowadays, you can grab much cheaper ergonomic chairs from a place like Staples or even upgrade your old chair with some DIY fixes. Be sure you check on cushion, arm rests, seat height, back rest height, lumbar support, and ability to swivel and/or roll
  3. Just plopping your mouse, keyboard and monitor on your desk is not going to give you a healthy working setup. Here’s how to make sure everything’s set up in the right position. You want your mouse and keyboard to be as close together as possible, with the alphanumeric part of the keyboard centered on your desk. This means you want to pay attention to the keys, not the keyboard itself-most keyboards are asymmetrical, with the number pad on the right. Instead of putting the whole keyboard in the center of your desk, keep an eye on the “B” key. You want that to be directly in front of you and in the center of where you’ll be sitting. Whether your desk has a sliding keyboard tray or not shouldn’t be much of a problem, as you should have both an adjustable seat and/or you can adjust your monitors in a myriad of ways. If you do have a keyboard tray, make sure your mouse is on the tray with it, not on the desk itself. You want your keyboard and mouse to be at the height where using them causes your elbows to be bent at or near a 90 degree angle, so you aren’t bending your wrists to type.
  4. While most monitors aren’t super adjustable on their own, there are numerous DIY monitor stands that are ridiculously easy to build, or adjustable monitor stands that are relatively inexpensive. You want the point about 2 or 3 inches down from the top of the monitor casing to be at eye level. You also want the monitors to be about an arm’s length away from where you’re sitting
  5. The last thing you’ll want to make sure of is that the most important objects at your desk are easily reachable. You shouldn’t have to reach for anything often, so use the space you have to store the things you need access to. Everything else can go in drawers or other parts of the office. The swiveling and/or rolling chair helps with this: if your chair swivels, you have a larger space for which things are in direct reach
  6. It doesn’t matter how “ergonomic” your hardware may be, you still need to be pretty mindful of your body when you work or you’ll never reap the benefits of your properly set up workspace. Here are the things you’ll want to pay attention to every day to make sure you’re being nice to your body: posture, taking frequent breaks, and avoiding eye strain.

These are but a few of the most important tips to creating a healthy, comfortable workspace. They may seem simple or inconsequential, but they’ll make a world of difference. C>

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