Workplace stress can be based on more than meeting deadlines and budgets. The lack of proper ergonomics—the design of your workspace to help reduce fatigue and discomfort—can be adding significantly to your back pain and stress levels, both in the office and after quitting time. Use these tips to arrange your office space to suit your build, height and other needs.
We may have evolved quite a bit over millions of years, but we were never meant to be sedentary for long periods of time, which can lead to back aches, soft tissue damage, and muscle and tendon pain. If you are experiencing discomfort, you could also be adding stress to your day. These tips should help.
Just keep in mind that even the most perfect space is still restrictive; remember to change position often and take brief breaks throughout the day.
Your chair: the seat of the matter
- Your chair should allow you to sit straight, with your arms relaxed at your side and your hands/wrists at a right angle to your keyboard/desktop. Ideally, your chair should have short and adjustable armrests.
- The height of your chair should have your thighs horizontal to the floor, with your feet resting flat. If they don’t reach the floor, try using a footrest.
- There should be enough lumbar support to keep your back straight, with a slight lean of approximately 100 degrees.
Your keyboard and mouse
- The best position for your back is with your shoulders in a relaxed position, your arms horizontally in front of you, and the mouse within easy reach.
- Keep your wrists straight and flat, not bent up or down.
- Your keyboard should be fairly flat, or on a negative slant.
- Try a keyboard tray to help keep your hands and arms in a neutral position.
- Use a light touch on the keys. Try not to pound, even with a deadline just moments away.
- Keep your mouse as close to your keyboard as possible.
Your monitor and workstation
- If possible, your workstation should be positioned to avoid glare from windows or overhead lighting.
- Your monitor should be perpendicular to any window. If you still experience glare, close blinds or reduce overhead lighting (if possible).
- Line up your eyes with the upper third of the screen, and about 55 cm to 65 cm (22-26 inches) away. If you have a large monitor, you may have to be further away in order to avoid neck strain. Don’t allow your head to push forward to make up this space.
- Adjust the brightness of your screen according to your comfort level on a regular basis.
- Keep ambient lighting low and add task lighting as needed.
- Keep your screen and eyeglasses clean.
- Your phone and any other gadget (calculator, stapler) you use regularly should be within 25 cm (10 inches) away from you.
- Don’t cradle your phone on your shoulder while using the computer. If you must multi-task, hold the phone in one hand and the mouse in the other. Better yet, use a headset.
- If you’re referring to documents as you work on the computer, use a document holder, set close to the monitor.
The interactive tool below provides a visual summary of how to set up your workstation in order to minimize the threat of back & neck pain.