I have been delving into the wealth of information available to us to discover how to maintain wellness, or in some cases, alleviate pain and restore health from seated professions. I even requested help in setting up a more ergonomic workstation since I was having neck, shoulder, and lower back pain, pain in my right wrist, and frequent headaches. I picked up several tips from that ergonomic consult, and will share those with you here.
Tips for ergonomic workstation adjustments:
We adjusted my desk height so that my arms were able to reach my keyboard at a 90 degree angle from both seated and standing positions.
The chair was adjusted so that my feet were flat on the ground with legs at a 90 degree angle. The arm rests were adjusted to a height which allowed my forearms to rest without raising my shoulders, and they were close enough to my body that my upper arms were along my sides rather than elbows extended away from my body.
Since I tend to lean toward my monitor, she suggested that my monitor should move forward on my desk to encourage me to sit back in my chair rather than lean forward. I am not certain how effective this was for me since I still found myself leaning toward the monitor and lost some valuable desk real estate in the process.
My desk faced a window and enjoying natural light, the office blinds were open so that I was able to see outdoors. She asked if I had frequent headaches, and when I said yes, she suggested that I direct the blinds upward to reduce the brightness when looking at my monitors. Lighting had a bigger impact on wellness than I realized and is an area where many of us have little control. I had two coworkers who worked with their office lights off because the overhead fluorescent lights gave them headaches. With a window office this is an easy practice, but when they were in an interior office, the mood felt more conducive to napping.
An ergonomic keyboard was recommended to me, which I ordered and tested out. The recommended keyboard was raised in the center and angled downward on the sides so that each hand angles slightly, and maintains the wrists in a neutral position. The effectiveness of such a keyboard seems to depend on the preference of individual users. I found that the keys, particularly the space bar, required too much force to press them, and it negatively impacted my comfort and ability to type quickly and accurately. My coworker, who is significantly stronger than I am, liked the keyboard and replaced his with that one.
A mat to alleviate pressure while I work in a standing position was also recommended, and I ordered and tested the suggested anti-fatigue mat. It was large, heavy, and had a bumpy surface of approximately 1” diameter raised hemispheres. This mat may be very effective for some users, but for my purposes, it was not compatible with a desk chair so I needed to move it out of the way while sitting at my desk and return it when standing. It was large and heavy so moving it was cumbersome and there was not a reasonable location to store it while not in use. The textured surface was also fine if I wore trail running shoes or hiking boots, which happened never. It was not ideal under most of the professional shoes I arrived in on a daily basis.
There are numerous anti-fatigue mat options available in stores and online, and a review in Wirecutter provides recommendations based on the models they tested out. What worked best for me was recommended by my physical therapist, and was actually a thick, lightweight, balance pad. The ideal standing pad is the one that meets the needs of each person’s individual preferences and workstation setup, and there does not seem to be a one size fits all solution.
After the adjustments made during my ergonomic consult, I felt more comfortable in my workstation. I still had some research and exploration to complete on my own to identify an appropriate keyboard and standing pad that suited my needs. I have found that taking advantage of the most current information and knowledge allows us to continue to improve our work environments on an ongoing basis.