In a modern, business environment, it’s important to have every advantage over your competitors. Hence the recent boom in ergonomics: the art of maximising efficiency by reducing discomfort to the employee. Employers love it because it gives their company an edge; we love it because it means we suffer significantly less backache and eyestrain than everyone else. But let’s say your employer can’t afford an ergonomic set-up: does that mean you should just put up with office discomfort? Of course not and for some very good reasons: sitting badly at your workstation every day can lead to long term backache and worse. So here are a few quick tips for personalising your workspace in an ergonomic fashion:
Choose Your Chair
Every office-supplier and his dog are selling ergonomic chairs these days, so it can be difficult knowing where to look. Rather than just picking a particular chair and calling it ‘the best’, we’d encourage you to have a look at its features and decide for yourself. Ideally, a good ergonomic chair should have lower back support (perhaps the most important feature of all), the ability to be raised or lowered with ease, adjustable armrests, should be easily rotatable and made with plenty of padding. The reason for this is to remove the stresses and strains of moving, slouching and hunching. Take your time deciding which chair is best for you, but make sure it incorporates those key features.
Get Your Angles Right
Of course, having the right chair isn’t everything. A good office chair just comfortably encourages you to sit right; it’s you who has to make sure you’re doing so. If you want to sit correctly, it’s a good idea to think about your body as a series of right angles: your knees should ideally be bent at ninety degrees; while putting your arms flat on the desk should leave your elbows at the same angle. Try adjusting your chair until you hit these magic straight lines: you may look unnaturally rigid, but it’ll save you pain in the long run.
Get Your Back Right
Our spines were not originally designed for long periods of sitting. Descended from active, playful apes via upright hominids, our bodies are temples to physical activity, not office living. So sitting for 8 hours a day with our spines at unnatural angles takes its toll over time. Ideally, your lower back should be supported in such a way that it’s pushed forward if you start slouching, following the spine’s natural curve. Again, look for that magic right angle – if you’re not supported at a near-ninety degree angle, you need to readjust now.
Angle Your Monitor
One of the biggest causes of strain can be your computer monitor. Headaches, blurred vision, migraines and irritation can all result from spending all day peering into the depths of your screen. When properly adjusted, your horizontal line of vision should be just above the monitor: in other words, you shouldn’t be able to directly see the screen looking straight ahead. Try and position the monitor looking up toward you, so that lowering your eye-line around 15 degrees brings it into view. This is generally regarded as the best position for your screen.
Finally, if you’re shorter than average, or work somewhere like a bookies, bank or other customer-facing role that requires you to be sat higher up, do not let your legs dangle. Studies show that legs, feet and ankles become prone to swelling when not supported – especially so if you’ve poor circulation. This in turn can lead to problems, especially if allowed to continue for several years. Invest in a footrest or lower your chair until you can plonk both feet firmly on terra firma.
Contributed by Sydney Michaelson, who writes for Design55.