Are you suffering from neck and back pain?
If you're left feeling sore and stiff after a normal day of work, your workstation may be to blame. With 90% of all U.S. office workers being glued to a computer screen all day, more companies than ever are adopting an ergonomic approach.
An ergonomic workstation will ensure you're in proper alignment and protecting the areas of your body that are most susceptible to injury and strain while seated at a desk.
Wondering what you need to create an ergonomic workstation? Check out this guide below.
Figure out Your Normal Posture
The first step in figuring out how to adjust your workspace is to see how you naturally want to place your body. We're not talking about the crouched over your desk, eye squinting position you may find yourself in halfway through the workday.
Sit at your desk as it is now and find your normal posture. This means sitting up straight and then relaxing slightly so that it's not an uncomfortable or unreasonable position for you to maintain while you work.
Place your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Let your arms rest easily in your lap and relax your shoulders. Be careful not to overly straighten your spine. You're working to find your natural position and stiffening up, even if it means a straight back, can be just as harmful as slouching.
Once you find this natural alignment, notice how you're sitting. You should feel as though your vertebrae are stacked gently on top of one another. This is the posture we'll work to achieve by adjusting the items below to support it.
Keyboard & Mouse
You've probably been doing it for years; reaching your arms out in front of you to type away on a keyboard and reaching your arm even farther out to the side to move that mouse.
In this position, we're putting a major strain on our shoulders, trapezoids and even rhomboid muscles. When we reach forward with our hands, our spine tends to go with is, hunching over and forgoing any sense of good posture we may have started out with.
Maintaining a straight spine but still reaching out your arms is just as strenuous on your muscles so it's important to consider both positions. As you're typing or using the mouse, you want your elbows close to your sides and at a ninety-degree angle or deeper. When elbows are low and close to you, you stop activating the muscles in your arms, shoulders, upper back, and neck, all of which are being pulled in different directions when you reach your arms out.
Once you've lowered and angled your arms, place your keyboard and mouse about two inches above your lap. The key to not overusing our upper body is to keep it relaxed so placing your keyboard above your thighs allows you to maintain the same element of the natural posture you figured out earlier.
You will likely need to get a pullout keyboard tray if your desk isn't low enough. If your keyboard doesn't have a built-in mouse, you want to be sure the mouse is not farther than shoulder width distance from you. You want to be able to reach for and use the mouse without changing your position.
Consider investing in a flat mouse. This will ensure you aren't raising and lowering your arm to different levels when you move back and forth between it and the keyboard.
When you begin adjusting your screen or screens, the first step is to figure out how far away they should be from your face. The easy test is to sit comfortably in your chair, find your natural posture and then reach your arm out. Your screen should be about arms-length from you. Anything farther and you'll be inadvertently jutting your neck out to get closer to the screen and see more clearly.
If you are using a second screen, use this tip to figure out the distance and place the second screen to the right or left of the centered one but try to leave as little space between the two as possible. This will stop you from cranking your neck to look at another screen.
Perhaps most importantly is the height of your screen. We want to avoid looking down as it strains the back of our neck and we don't want to be tilting up to look at a screen above us.
Find your natural position and open your eyes to look out straight ahead of you. Wherever your eyeline naturally falls is where the tabs of your search engine should be. Adjust both screens to be on this level if you're using two. You can purchase a stand or even stack your screen on books if you want to give the position a try before investing.
Finding the perfect chair may be the most important part of a successful ergonomic workstation. There are few things you'll need to consider and it's important to test them out before making a purchase.
You want the back of the chair to cater to and support your natural position. Most ergonomic chairs will have a slight sway lower area which is ideal because you don't want to be tucking your tailbone under as you sit.
Don't get a chair that is too deep. You want the angle of your knee to be about an inch or so away from the edge of your chair so that your legs can comfortably rest on the floor without the chair digging into the back of your knee.
Lastly, you want to be sure the height of the chair is right. This should be adjustable on whichever chair you purchase. Be sure your feet can rest flat on the floor without straining your lower back or causing you to lean or scooch forward in the chair in order to touch the ground.
Don't forget this part. You can have the most ergonomic workstation around but it will all be for naught if you don't get up occasionally to move and stretch your body.
You should aim to do this at least once an hour. It will allow your body to realign and release from any tension it may have built up while you were sitting and working. Walk around your workspace and come up with a simple standing stretch routine that you can do in at least five minutes.
Set Up Your Ergonomic Workstation Today!
If you're suffering, why wait any longer? Turning your space into an ergonomic workstation only takes a few tweaks. Focus on the elements above and see how your pain decreases after the end of a long workday.
We'd love to help you create an ergonomic workspace. Check out our helpful products and don't forget to read our blog for more tips on staying comfortable while you work.