Keeping You Healthy at Your Desk: An Ergonomic Guide

Post by
Andre Luton

Throughout 2020, employees have been making use of many different workstation set ups - from standard desks to kitchen tables, we have seen it all!

With this is mind we wanted to put together some recommendations to help you keep your health in check!

Let’s start at the beginning.

We’ve all heard of the term ‘ergonomics’, but what does it actually mean?

The definition of ergonomics simply is: the study of people's efficiency in their working environment. Essentially by studying and focusing on a workplace set up, we are aiming to increase the comfort of a workplace thus helping improve productivity.

Ergonomics is made up of many different elements including your desk, chair, keyboard and even plants (yes plants!). Each distinct area can have an impact on your health and posture, hence why it’s important to dedicate some time to getting it right from the start.


Key Elements of a Good Workplace Set Up

Your Desk

The desk makes up the foundation of everything so this is where we will start.

According to Australian Standards, a desk should have a preferred fixed height of 700-720 mm but can be as low as 680 mm, and in an ideal world your desk will be adjustable to suit you. If you do have an option to move the desk to suit your height, we recommend you do so.

You should be able to reach all items on the desk easily with your feet flat on the floor and your arms resting on the desk’s surface.

Your Chair

Where you sit all day is just as important as your desk and we should focus on a few key areas to keep your back comfortable.

Armrests: It’s a good idea to have a place for your arms to rest when you’re not busy typing. Your armrests should be at a level where your shoulders stay relaxed and your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.

Seat height: The best position is having your thighs parallel to the floor when your feet are flat, you should not be straining your legs outwards to get comfortable or have your feet not touch the floor.

Adjustable backrest height: Slouching is a big no no! You want to be able to move the backrest and adjust the angle to suit. We always say it’s better to have your chair more upright to help avoid the urge to slouch those shoulders.

Supporting your lower back: You may find if you are sitting for long periods of time you need some support for the lower part of your back.

Having access to a proper office chair that provides lumbar support is important, however if you don’t have access to this (e.g. home office) try a small cushion that can be placed between your back and the chair.

Your Equipment

Your screen: The position of your screen is an important part of your set up for the best ergonomic positioning - the top of your monitor should be slightly below eye level. This comfortable height should help mitigate neck strain.

Your keyboard and mouse: Firstly, you should have both in comfortable reach, so you are not having to stretch to access. Take up a position where you can type and use the mouse with your elbows gently resting on the desk. A great little tip is to have the letter ‘b’ on your keyboard located almost in line with your belly button.


Other aspects to consider:

Taking Breaks

It’s important to take micro-breaks throughout the day to break up the prolonged periods of sitting. As a rule of thumb, you should betaking at least a five-minute break away from your screen every half hour to hour. Or you could consider the ‘20 - 20 – 20’ rule. Every 20 minutes take 20 seconds to look away from your screen and look at something at least twenty meters away from you.

Look After Your Eyes

Staring at a screen all day can play havoc with your eyes as well as potentially lead to headaches and migraines. Taking mini breaks is vital to reduce the strain and give your overloaded eyes a reset.

Appropriate Lighting

On the topic of eyes, having the right kind of lighting can support a good ergonomic set up. You don’t want to find yourself glaring or squinting at a screen as this can cause further exertion on your eyes.

Introduce Greenery

In a recent article by Deakin University they suggested that humans have a natural tendency to prefer settings with natural elements, and the perceived attractiveness of indoor plants can induce stress-reducing effects. So perhaps introduce some indoor plants to help reduce stress!

Work, unfortunately, is something we can’t avoid and many of us are bound to desks to complete our daily tasks.

What we can control however is our health, so if you are currently facing back and neck issues due to a poor ergonomic set up – get in touch with our friendly team who can manage your pain and provide professional advice on avoiding issues in the future.

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