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  • Writer's pictureBrian Trimble

Creating an Ergonomic Work Environment

An ergonomic work environment is all about maximizing comfort and minimizing those nasty back and shoulder pains. The more comfortable we are where we work, the more productive we can be since we don’t have to worry about our bodies so much.

Many of us tend to slouch when in front of our computers (straighten your back now if you haven’t done so already!), creating a bad posture that paves the way for worse back pain in the future.

And that’s not even the worst scenario. It could get even more painful with pinched nerves or carpal tunnel syndrome.

Whether you work from home or at the office, you’ll want to create that ergonomic work environment for yourself to reduce your stress. The old chair and desk combination you’ve had for months or years just won’t cut it.

There’s a lot to consider here. Desk height, chair height, where your eye meets your computer screen, and even the surface of your chair.

There’s no need to worry, however. We’ll be giving you the ultimate beginner’s guide to creating that ergonomic work environment so that you can be comfortable even while working.

1. Invest in a good ergonomic chair

A good office chair is one of the first things you should consider in making an ergonomic work environment. Your seating height, the position of your arms, and your sitting angle all play vital parts in helping you achieve good posture.

Your chair is where you will be spending nearly all of your working hours, so you should definitely bump it up in your list of priorities.

Around 50% of people suffer from back pain, and many of these are directly related to poor sitting posture.

The first thing you should consider when buying an ergonomic office chair is its height. Your feet should be flat on the floor when you’re seated, and your thighs should be parallel to the floor.

If you find yourself tiptoeing to reach the floor, the chair is too high. On the other hand, when your knees are higher than your waist, the chair’s too low.

The best option would be to find one with an adjustable height. Thankfully, most ergonomic chairs in the market come with this feature.

Next, you want a chair that reclines and tilts. Sitting down at the same angle for hours on end can be taxing on your upper body. You should be able to recline and relax without slouching. Look for a chair that can recline at least 135 degrees.

An underrated aspect of the backrest is lumbar support. The backrest should have a curvature that follows the natural curve of the lower back. This is a bit of a luxury that can cost more, but it is definitely worth it.

There are more features that you can have at a premium, like adjustable armrest heights. But you should already be good to go with the proper seat height and backrest.

2. Make sure your desk height is just right

An ideal desk height means that your arms are parallel to the floor with no unnecessary strain. You should also have no need to strain your head up or down when looking at the screen.

When your desk is too low, you end up slouching just to look at your screen. This causes your neck to carry too much of the load more than it has to, leading to neck and shoulder pain in the future.

On the other hand, a desk that is too high can be a problem for your arms. When the desk presses on your wrist, that causes circulation problems that can eventually lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

A good desk should also be wide enough for you to cross your legs. Too narrow, and you will feel cramped after a few hours.

The general desk height recommended by the Canadian Standards Association is at +/- 73 cm or +/- 28.7 inches.

If you’re willing to pay a premium for more features, you can also invest in a desk with an adjustable height. That way, you can shift from sitting desk to standing desk throughout the day, which is good for your posture and blood circulation.

3. Your monitor should be at the optimal position

So now you’ve got your desk and chair set up. The next thing is to work on what you’ll be looking at for a third of the day: your monitor.

Whether working on a laptop or a desktop, you should have your screen at least an arm’s length away from you. Too close, and you might have to move your neck too much just to look at the screen. Too far, and you’ll eventually strain yourself looking at your display.

As for the height, the top of the screen should be either at or below eye level. People mistakenly think that the center of the screen should be eye level. The truth is, you’ll strain your eyes much more looking up vs. looking down, which is why having the top at eye level is the best.

There’s also an ideal tilt angle of about 10 – 20 degrees. A monitor that looks straight at you will have the display dimmed at the bottom. Since the top of the screen is eye level, you should tilt the monitor slightly so that all parts are well lit.

Fortunately, most monitors nowadays have adjustable tilts. You might have to pay extra if you want one with an adjustable height, though.

One thing to note is that when you like working in your workspace with the lights off, you might want to put some lighting behind the monitor. If your monitor is the only bright spot in the room, you will be straining your eyes too much.

An ergonomic workspace has gone from being a luxury to an essential in everybody’s workstations, whether at home or in the office. After reading this guide, you hopefully have a better idea of what adjustments you need to make to your workstation.

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