- Posted by Christine
- On January 24, 2021
Chair Set-Up for an Ergonomic Workspace
There are many chairs available that claim to be ergonomic, but ergonomic is not a one-size-fits all solution and finding a good fit with a chair is one of the most challenging aspects of an ergonomic set up. Given that we may have fewer options than usual during a pandemic, let’s go through a best-case scenario and discuss things that you can use at home to tailor your set up.
Hopefully, you have a chair with a height-adjustable seat. Ideally you want your feet planted on the floor and your elbows, hips, ankles, and knees at 90-degree angles. If your current chair does not allow that, here are some suggestions: If you need to sit higher to keep your joints at 90-degree angles, try adding height by sitting on a firm pillow. If your feet aren’t touching the ground, try using a foot stool or similar sturdy object.
Next, does your chair have low back (lumbar) support? The cushion/support should be cradling the small of your back (where the spine naturally goes towards your front body). If your chair at home doesn’t have this capability, try using a small pillow or folded bath towel.
The height of your desk should allow enough room for your legs and thighs. If your desk is too low and lacks fancy mechanics to adjust the height, try propping the desk up on sturdy boards or blocks. If the desk is too high, then try raising your chair (or put a pillow down to sit on) and use the footrest as mentioned above. This website is a great resource that calculates your desk height, computer screen height, etc., based on your own height.
Computer screen, keyboard & mouse
Given the current circumstances, many people are using their laptop at home. Laptops create a number of issues that contribute to poor posture: the keyboard is more narrow than an external keyboard and it draws your shoulders inwards; the mouse pad is in the center and demands a great deal from the finger muscles as well as pulls your shoulder forward; the screen is too low which places your neck in too much of a flexed position. I find the best solution is to use the laptop only for its hard drive and screen, and to use an external keyboard and mouse rather than the built-in ones. You could also consider propping your laptop up on a box/riser so that the top of the screen is at eye level and the screen is approximately an arms distance away from you. Ideally, an external keyboard and mouse will be used at desk height to mimic a typical desktop computer setup.
While work breaks do not necessarily relate to ergonomics, they are equally important! Scheduling work breaks to get up and move, perhaps do some light stretching. Your body and its tolerance may be challenged by changing a great deal of factors at once, and your make-shift home station may not be as comfortable as your usual workspace. Therefore, make sure you are getting up often and getting the blood flowing! Want to read more about what stretches and movement to include in your work breaks? Check out this article by Ashley.