Proper Desk Ergonomics
For those of us who sit at a home office desk for long periods of time proper posture is essential. You’re not doomed to a lifetime of neck and back pain or sore wrists and fingers if you follow some simple tips.
In addition to taking short breaks from sitting, proper home office ergonomics — including correct chair height, adequate equipment spacing and good desk posture — can help you stay comfortable while you’re working.
Let’s start with your home office desk: Generally, your desk should be at least 19 inches deep, 30 inches wide and depending on your height, up to 34 inches high. Make sure you have enough room under your desk to rest your feet comfortably and enough room for a foot pedal if you use one. It might be helpful to have some sort of footrest under your desk to allow you to change leg positions occasionally. I keep a small old plastic file box under my desk padded with a thick folded towel. It enables me to not only change the position of my legs and hips occasionally, but it also relieves a lot of pressure on my back.
Your home office chair: Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor and your knees are level with your hips. If your chair doesn’t have some kind of adequate lumbar support, place a small pillow between the curve of your lower back and the back of the chair. I have found a wire mesh device at my local Walgreen’s store that’s meant to be used as a lumbar support for office chairs. It works great. You might want to consider getting a gel cushion for your bottom, too. That part of the anatomy can take a beating as well during long sessions at your desk.
Your wrists: It’s recommended that you keep your wrists in a straight natural position, but I’ve found that my ergonomic keyboard keeps my wrists in an ever so slightly downward position, which seems to really help. Having a wrist rest in front of your keyboard is crucial to minimizing stress on your wrists. Position your wrists over the wrist rest while typing and during pauses relax your wrists on the wrist rest. If you don’t have a store-bought wrist rest, it’s very easy to just use a small rolled towel to give your wrists some support; even better, invest in a good ergonomic keyboard that incorporates these features.
Your posture: Center your body in front of your computer monitor and keyboard. Sit up straight, just like you mother always told you, and keep your forearms level or tilted up slightly.
Your computer monitor: Your computer monitor should be directly in front of you at about an arm’s length distance, generally 18 to 28 inches away. The top of the screen should be slightly below eye level. If glare from room lights or sunny windows is a problem, you might want to turn those lights off and pull your shades down. Keep any desk lights so that the brightest light source is to the side of the monitor.
Your peripherals: If you use a mouse, keep it directly to the side of your keyboard to minimize reaching. There are mouse pads on the market that include a gel wrist rest. I would highly recommend getting one if you use your mouse a lot. Any other devices you use frequently such as a stapler, phone, printed materials, etc. keep them within easy reach. Anything that’s outside of your immediate reach, don’t over-stretch to get them but instead stand up to retrieve them.
I hope some of this information helps ease your aches and pains a little while slaving over your home office desk work. Perhaps in my next blog we’ll talk a little bit about “Chair Aerobics.”