If you work a desk job, you know the struggles that come with long days hunched over a computer. When you work 40+ hours a week in that sort of unnatural position, your body feels it. Your shoulders get hunched, neck cranks forward, back is all bent out of shape and don’t even get me started on those tight hips. Needless to say, our bodies weren’t meant to sit all day and stare at a screen and yet here we are.
Does this mean you have to choose between longevity at your job and having joints that work? Absolutely not. Those knots in your neck, pain in your spine and cranky hips can all be helped by ergonomics. Ergonomics is the study of human efficiency in a working environment, which nowadays means helping people work as safely and comfortably as possible at a desk.
You may have heard about the dangers of sitting all day or how constant hunching forward actually triggers your nervous system’s fight or flight response. The effects of constantly working and experiencing stress at a desk takes a toll on not just our minds but our bodies as well, and one of the most powerful ways we can reconcile between the science and our daily obligations is by setting up an ergonomic workstation.
Now that many of us are working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and most likely will be into 2021, putting in the effort to make your home workspace as ergonomic as possible is definitely worthwhile. Sure, you might not have your fancy office desk chair or a desk whose height you can adjust at the touch of a button, but you can still take a few simple steps and make your home workspace ergonomic.
What Does an Ergonomic Workstation Look Like?
An ergonomic workstation is all about alignment, proper length and putting the least amount of stress on your body as possible. You want your knees and hips to be level, your wrists as straight as possible and hands at or beneath your elbows when reaching out in front of you. If you’re standing, the alignment from the elbows up matters the most, as well as keeping your shoulders, knees and hips aligned. These may seem like simple principles, but so many workspaces don’t check these boxes and over time, the differences between the two stations can put major stress on muscles and joints. we’ve included a visual of proper ergonomic alignment for reference.
For example, if your chair is a little too low and computer below eye level your body is going to have to do much more work to keep you in a comfortable position all day than if things were aligned.
In this guide we’re going to go step by step, head to toe, and offer guidance, tips and recommended products for setting up an ergonomic workstation at home. Don’t worry, you don’t have to buy a ton of expensive equipment or throw away everything you already have to make this happen, most of the time it’s just about making minor tweaks that feel small in the moment, but amount to big-time relief for your body long term.
Setting up an ergonomic workspace won’t just make you more comfortable, it’ll save you the extra aches and pains so you can get back to work and stay productive longer.
Part I: Computer
Starting at the top and working our way downwards, your computer’s monitor should be at eye level and between 18-24 inches away from your eyes. Sitting too close to your computer strains your eyeballs and putting your computer below eye level puts unnecessary stress on your neck.
Typically, this step only requires raising your computer a bit either with the monitor itself, a stack of books or getting a laptop stand that saves you space on your desk and gives you the lift you need.
Soundance Laptop Stand
This laptop stand fits laptops of all types and sizes, and is made of sturdy aluminum alloy that’ll keep your computer where you need it to be. It elevates your laptop 6″ to eye level and is designed for ergonomic workstations. It’s also designed with ventilation to keep your laptop cool, and creates storage space underneath it.
Monitor Riser 2-Pack
If you’ve got a desktop or monitor that needs raising, this 2-pack comes with multifunctional risers that can work for laptops, desktops or any type of screen you need raised. They’ve got anti-slip suction cup bottoms for reinforced stability that won’t scratch your desk’s surface and each can hold up to 50 pounds securely.
Part II: Keyboard & Mouse
Moving downwards from the head, neck and shoulders we’ve got the hands, wrists and elbows. These body parts most frequently interact with the edge of the desk, the mouse and keyboard, all of which play a role in an ergonomic setup. Your keyboard and mouse should be close to your hands so your wrists don’t have to strain. It also helps if they’re ergonomically designed to ease stress on your joints and support your wrists throughout the day. Your desk should also be at a height where your elbows are at 90 degrees to minimize muscular tension.
There are keyboards designed to be ergonomic that look a bit different from other keyboards. They’re split through the middle to accommodate natural hand and wrist positions when typing, and have wide support pads for wrists built into them. There are also ergonomic mice that are more vertical in their design to mimic your hand and wrists’ natural handshake positions to minimize strain.
Perixx Periboard Ergonomic Keyboard
This split-key and 3-D keyboard design mimics your body’s natural arm and hand positions and therefore requires less muscular work to work on. It also has a wide, emphasized palm rest for supporting wrists and the keys are tactile to reduce pressure when pressing the keys. It’s a plug and play model so setting it up and getting it ready for use is simple, and while it might take some getting used to it’s designed to save you from aching or discomfort later on down the road.
Anker Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Optical Mouse
The design of this ergonomic mouse may look strange, but it’s designed to mimic your hand and wrist’s positions when resting by your side, reaching forward or giving a handshake. This position helps them move smoother and reduces overall strain, which over time can reduce pain and discomfort in your workspace. There are next/previous buttons for seamless webpage browsing and after eight idle minutes the whole mouse enters power saving mode to preserve the battery.
Part III: Desk and Chair
The most important part about your desk is the height. It should be positioned at the height where your elbows are at a 90 degree angle when your hands and wrists are resting comfortably on the surface. You can either adjust the height of your chair if your desk is too tall or place blocks underneath the feet of your desk to raise it up. You should have plenty of room underneath for your knees, thighs and feet, so minimize storage beneath your desk if possible. Also, if your desk has a hard edge grabbing a wrist rest can be very helpful.
They make top-notch ergonomic office chairs these days that feel comfortable to sit in all day long, and desks that can mechanically raise and lower so you can pick the exact height that works for you, and convert it to a standing desk easily. If you’ve already got a desk and chair you’re working with, raising the height of the desk is one of the best ways to convert, as well as getting a seat cushion if your chair is too low.
Duramont Ergonomic Adjustable Office Chair
This is one of the highest-quality and most affordable ergonomic office chairs available. It’s no $1,400 Aeron office chair, but it’ll get the job done and then some. It’s comfortable and supportive with lumbar support, adjustable armrest height, backrest tilt and adequate tilt tension that’ll cradle your musculoskeletal system in the ways that you want. It has breathable mesh for staying cool during the day and is built to last with a weight capacity of 330 lbs.
SHW Store 55-inch Large Electric Height Adjustable Computer Desk
This desk has a large work surface up top and an electric height adjustment system built inside that makes it very easy to adjust the desk to the exact height that’s ergonomically aligned for you and your body. It has the ability to save four memory preset options and a motorized lift system that can go between 28-45 inches off the ground. It’s made of high-quality industrial steel and there are grommets built in for organizing chords.
Utopia Adjustable Furniture Risers
If a whole new desk or chair isn’t within your budget at the moment, these furniture risers will also do the trick and can lift your desk 3, 5 or 8 inches off the floor so you can find something that works. Your desk leg will fit securely into the recess cup that has a depth of 0.7 inches to keep it propped up, and each one is made of heavy-duty plastic that can safely support furniture weighing up to 1,300 lbs.
*Note, if your desk legs are thicker than 2.75″ across you will need to find other risers.
Part IV: Feet
Your feet are the last piece of the puzzle, and they’re also the easiest part. They just need to be touching the floor. Or if not the floor, something. You just don’t want them hanging out there in space, putting pressure on your knees, hips and other leg muscles. If you’ve had to adjust your chair’s height to high enough that your feet are off the floor in order to make your elbows and wrists comfortable, a foot rest of even a stack of books may be helpful to getting the support you need.
Mind Reader Ergonomic Foot Rest
This angled textured foot rest is perfect for placing underneath your desk so your feet can find just the right position. This foot rest lifts and angles your ankles, feet, knees and legs in the right position for reducing stress on the body. This type of support can reverberate all the way up to improving neck and back pain as well, making it a worthwhile investment. The pebbled surface provides for a nice foot massage, and the swivel feature makes it easy to move and adjust with your body throughout the day.