Break out the tape measure – Minor workstation tweaks with a major impact on comfort

After making workstation improvements with the help of an ergonomic consultation, I spent time researching and exploring additional workstation tweaks and improvements I could make. I learned that there is value in us taking responsibility for our own health and wellness and continuing to improve our work environments on an ongoing basis. This is valuable for our wellbeing and to be our happiest and most productive selves in our work environments as well.

Measuring Workstation Height and Monitor Distance

Breaking out the measuring tape for fine tuning my sitting and standing workstation was enlightening and helped make more precise adjustments. Desk height is fairly easy to set without measuring tape. This is great news for workstations which will alternate between sitting and standing that do not have settings. When I measured my sitting and standing desk heights based on 90 degree angles at my elbows to keep my wrists in neutral positions, I was almost exactly at the recommended heights from the ergonomic calculator I was using.

The monitor distance is harder to gauge, and with a dual monitor setup, I needed to move both monitors several inches closer to be within the recommended 20”- 30” range.

Pictures Help Visualize Potential Issues

If you can have a coworker or friend take pictures of you while you are in your workstation from a few different angles, it is easier to see what aspects of the workstation may need adjusting. How is your posture? Are your arms resting on your armrests with elbows at 90 degree angles? Are your elbows close to your sides? Is your wrist in a neutral position? Are your feet flat on the ground with your legs at 90 degree angles? Is your monitor at or just below eye level and tilted away from you at the top at a 10 to 20 degree angle? I was able to make minor adjustments by seeing my body position while seated and standing at my workstation to help ensure proper alignment.

Keyboard and Mouse Adjustments

On the recommendation of a physical therapist, I explored alternatives to my current mouse and keyboard. I tried an ergonomic keyboard with the keyboard essentially split in half so that each hand can angle outward slightly. I found that the keys, particularly the space bar, required too much force to press easily. I spend a large amount of time typing and need to be able to type comfortably, quickly, and accurately. My officemate, who is stronger than I am, liked the keyboard and replaced his with that one.

A significant amount of trial and error taught me that seemingly small adjustments in the height of my keyboard made a large difference in the position of my wrists, and the pain that I was experiencing. The ideal is to keep wrists in a neutral position while working. Even slightly high or low heights of keyboards can cause wrists to angle and move out of a neutral position while typing. In order to prevent this, careful adjustment of chair or desk/keyboard height can be performed to ensure that the keyboard location allows wrists to remain in a neutral position and not angle up or down. I found when my keyboard was too low, I would have to angle my wrists up to type which put additional strain on my wrists.

I tried a keyboard with a trackpad on the right-hand side, and found that using the trackpad instead of a mouse did not resolve the wrist pain. When I paid close attention to the movements my right hand was making, I was lifting my wrist and angling it outward to use the trackpad. The mouse and keyboard I am currently working with have seemed to resolve my wrist issues. I selected a keyboard with a low profile so that my wrists do not need to be raised to type. I tried more creative mouse options and eventually settled on a handheld mouse with a trackball. This may not be a common choice but seemed to solve my issue of wrist pain because my wrist no longer needs to move when using my mouse.

After the adjustments made during my ergonomic consult, I felt more comfortable in my workstation, but this did not alleviate all my neck, shoulder, and back pain, and the wrist was still giving me trouble. Although it struck me as a pain in the neck to break out the tape measure and modify my workstation to fit ergonomic recommendations, the opposite was true. It helped relieve the pain in my neck.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

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