In a very broad sense, ergonomically designed products are generally adjustable to optimize a person’s physique, posture, and structural health when interacting with a specific environment. More simply defined as understanding and designing a product or environment to optimize human interaction with it, “ergonomics” has become one of the hottest buzzwords to attach to furniture and other products from vacuum cleaners to desks. This is due in part to the association of improved health and comfort associated with using ergonomic products, an association that has been magnified recently due to increased investment, research and growth in the field of human factors.
Ergonomics applies to almost every industry from truck driving to industrial manufacturing environments. A key market driving the general demand for ergonomic products is the movement to both modernize our office environment and make them more comfortable. Motivated by modern research touting the health, productivity, and well-being benefits from using adjustable, ergonomic office furniture over traditional fixed products, workers have become driven to upgrade and modernize their office environment by purchasing cutting edge “ergonomic” solutions. With so many options for ergonomic office furniture, it can be difficult to know where to start … is that ergonomic pen a necessity? Or should you take out a second mortgage and buy an integrated ergonomic desk/chair with AI?
To help simplify the decision tree, here are five great ergonomic furniture options that won’t break the bank—and if implemented independently or jointly should make office and desk life more comfortable.
Adjustable Sit/Stand Office Desk:
Adjustable desks can benefit your health in a number of ways. First, they give you the freedom to sit, stand, and move as you transition between sitting and standing. Sitting sedentary for extended periods has been independently research-linked to a variety of health ailments. The general evidence-based consensus is that moving more throughout the day is associated with numerous health and productivity benefits – essentially both the physical and health opposite of sitting stationary.
There are two general ways to achieve sit-to-stand freedom:
(1) retrofit your current office desk with a standing desk riser
(2) toss out your current desk and replace it with a fully adjustable height office desk
Let’s look at the pros and cons of investing in a Standing Desk Riser vs. a New Adjustable Height Office Desk:
Standing Desk Converters are a quick and inexpensive way to try standing or, if you’re in love with your current desk, standing desk conversions offer a convenient way to permanently convert your desk to a sit/stand workspace.
Not without flaws, the primary pitfall of most sit-to-stand risers is that they provide questionable ergonomics—in general, monitors are too low, keyboards are not positioned optimally, and they may move you away from your work area.
A luxurious ergonomic solution that’s the keystone building block for creating a truly ergonomic office environment. Easy to use, electric adjustable height office desks are the foundation for the sit/stand world.
Due to their size, full-sized ergonomic office desks can be cumbersome and require time and resources to install. While adjustable height desks have excellent basic functionality, creating a true ergonomic office experience requires purchasing accessories for your electric standing desk.
The chair … if you work at a desk you probably spend too much time in it. Traditional office chairs are great, but a convenient way to carry some of the health benefits associated with a standing desk to your chair is to use an “active chair.” Active chairs give you the freedom to move more while sitting. Often they have an unstable seat that can engage your core for balancing exercises and give you the freedom to tip, twist, move and burn calories while sitting.
Some adjustable height active chairs extend tall enough to let you perch near standing height; thereby giving you a rest from standing without going all the way down to a traditional-height chair. Perching near standing height not only gives your legs a rest, but it also makes the transition back to standing more likely to occur.
Active chairs are a simple, fun, and convenient way to boost the ergonomics of your desk life and help you engage in more movement during the work day.
Ergonomic Keyboard Tray
If you’re working at a desk, you probably have a computer and that requires typing … endless hours of typing. Keep your wrists, forearms, and shoulders perky, happy, and motivated to continue punching those keys with an ergonomic keyboard tray. An adjustable keyboard tray is quite honestly one of the best investments you can make to improve your office desk ergonomics. Much of your upper body—hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders, and back—are directly or surreptitiously involved in typing. Resting a keyboard on top of your desk forces you to uncomfortably contort your body to reach the keys. Using an ergonomic keyboard tray can alleviate much of the pain from typing.
The functionality, cost, and ergonomic-effectiveness of under-desk keyboard trays varies greatly. The most effective keyboard trays feature a full range of adjustability that allow your keyboard to properly fit your typing posture. Specifically, the best under desk keyboard trays are:
- Adjustable in Height—allowing you to position keyboards just below elbow height for optimal ergonomics
- Adjustable in Tilt—research has shown that a negative tilt keyboard tray can be optimal for long-term typing comfort. Similar to the concept of moving more during the day, adjusting the tilt prevents you from being locked in to the same static posture for hours (years?) on end.
- Swivel and Slide—The ability to easily move your keyboard in-and-out and side-to-side further facilitates movement and ease of use.
- Adjustable Mouse Pad—Often overlooked, proper mousing posture is critical to overall typing health. Adjustable width mouse pads allow you to position your mouse and keyboard to prevent forward shoulder rotation. Keyboard trays with an adjustable tilt mouse pad allow your mouse to be on a level playing field even if you’re typing with a negative tilt. Keyboard trays with ambidextrous or dual mouse pads are great for mousing with both the left and right hand to break up repetitive use.
Proper monitor position is critical to your overall posture and office desk ergonomics. Whether you’re sitting or standing, it’s too easy for your monitors to be too far below eye-level—causing an unnatural and uncomfortable forward lean. Kiss hunching goodbye and install an ergonomic monitor arm. A simple, affordable monitor arm allows you to easily adjust the height of your monitor—perfectly positioning them at eye-level when you’re sitting and standing. Monitor arms swivel, tilt, rotate, and pan monitors to reduce screen glare and optimize viewing comfort. Invest in an adjustable monitor arm for an easy way to quickly improve your office desk ergonomics.
Get Something to Stand On!
We’ve advocated using a standing desk and listened to the experts preach about their benefits. If you opt to use a standing desk, you must get something to stand on—your entire body will thank you! In general, there are three options that you can use independently or together to stand in comfort at your office desk:
Flat Anti-Fatigue Mat: a cushioned floor mat will make a world of difference for your comfort. Without the aches and pains commonly attributed to standing on a hard surface, you’ll probably find yourself standing for longer periods with better productivity.
Contoured Anti Fatigue Mats: if you’re a fidgeter or someone who likes to move their feet a lot while standing, a contoured anti-fatigue mat is for you. They provide the same cushioning as a flat mat, but the contoured design is like a jungle gym for your legs—encouraging you to move, fidget, and stand in comfort.
Balance Boards: office balance boards are perhaps the ultimate way to move more while working at a standing desk. We’re not suggesting that you need to try and get work done while having endless leg shakes and stress from a 1-legged bosu ball squat; rather, look for a balance board designed for office utility that provides gentle balancing movements—enabling you to flow throughout your day while standing. A proper balance board is easy to use, can have a range of health and productivity benefits, and will help you become the talk of the office!