As workplaces across the country are affected by the current pandemic, you may find yourself converting your study, living room, bedroom or even kitchen into your new work space.
If this isn’t something you’re accustomed to then you may be wondering how to set up your work space for success and avoid the aches and pains that come with being a desk jockey.
Workplace Ergonomics: Removing or modifying risk factors that lead to musculoskeletal injuries and allows for improved human performance and productivity.
Van Niekerk and colleagues (2012) concluded that there were findings to support the role of a chair intervention to reduce musculoskeletal symptoms among workers who are required to sit for prolonged periods.
Screen height, desk height, keyboard, mouse as well as sustained postures were also noteworthy factors when considering ideal ergonomic set up.
Below, we will highlight small but effective tips in minimizing common workplace niggles and optimize your desk setup.
A good desk chair is worth its weight in gold, especially if it’s supporting you for 8-10 hours during your day.
Small changes can have a big effect in off loading your lower back and upper traps when considering the following tips –
- Ensure your hips, knees and ankles are sitting at 90 degrees
- Have your elbows aligned with the desk height
- Add a support to your lower back to maintain the natural curve of the spine
- Tilt your pelvis forward
Other options include using a saddle chair or a pilates ball which also help tilt the pelvis forward in order to maintain the natural curvature of the lower back.
This can also promote better posture higher up the chain.
Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular due to their ease of use and ergonomic set up. Maintaining static postures for long hours can cause problems to the stabilizer muscles of the neck and shoulders (Szeto, Straker & O’Sullivan, 2005).
Therefore, changing postures and positions are crucial to minimising muscle fatigue during your work day. Though, a standing desk isn’t crucial to achieving this – regular breaks are just as effective.
Try employing the 30-60 minutes ON and 5-10 minutes OFF method to break up your position. Use your OFF time to change position, walk around or prepare a snack.
3. Screen, Keyboard and Mouse
In regards to your screen, ensure it is sitting at eye-level to avoid excessive flexion of your cervical spine. This can lead to increased tension in your neck.
For those who mainly use a laptop; a laptop stand or stacked books are recommended to elevate your screen height. However, ensure this is complimented with a portable keyboard and mouse to avoid wrist issues and excessive elevation of the shoulders.
Hands should be aligned with the forearm when using a keyboard to avoid excessive strain on the wrist joint. Higher up the chain, the mouse should be aligned with the shoulder to minimize shoulder abduction.
Non-neutral postures of the shoulder like flexion and abduction have been found to be associated with musculoskeletal symptoms of the neck and upper limbs (Matos & Arezes, 2015).
Additionally, the ON/OFF method can also be used to break up keyboard and mouse use and avoid any unnecessary strain.
In summary –
- Ensure screen is at eye level height
- If elevating your laptop screen, add a portable keyboard and mouse to compliment this set up
- Align your hands and forearm when using your keyboard
- Align your mouse with your shoulder
- Break up your activity using the ON/OFF method
I hope this resource has served you well in optimizing your home work space.
Pay attention to your body and assess where you can make little changes for a bigger gain.