You can’t get a comfortable night’s sleep with just a mattress. You need pillows, sheets, a duvet (or doona as the Aussies say), correct room temperature, and quiet. An environment where you feel comfortable enough to relax and drift off. Now, whilst we don’t want you to drift off in the office, we certainly want you to be comfortable. So then why is it that a lot of us aren’t? In fact, over 50% of us are working in discomfort. Anything from lower back discomfort, eye strain, wrist ache and neck tension (the list goes on and on).
You walk into the office, set your bag down, acknowledge your colleagues or like me have a bit of a gossip session with a cuppa in hand and then sit down to start the day. 3 hours later you haven’t moved and it’s now time for lunch which you probably eat at your desk because you have an important deadline to hit or that last email to send. It’s now early afternoon, you are feeling tired and you’ve hit a wall. Your productivity has dropped significantly and that chocolate biscuit or cup of coffee is looking increasingly tempting. You just need that little bit of energy to end the day with conviction.
Sounds like a normal day, right? What you probably haven’t realised is your mind and body has been significantly affected by this behaviour. At some stage throughout the morning you’ve probably started to slouch and leant forward onto the desk for support. There is now no contact with your backrest, your shoulders are shrugged, your neck forward, and you like a bit of a turtle! This probably remains the posture until lunch. You are now eating lunch at your desk. One hand holding your fork or sandwich, the crumbs falling into the cracks of your keyboard, the other hand on the mouse clicking through emails, or documents or drawings. Are you really being your most productive self? Unlikely. The lack of a break has left you feeling fatigued and frustrated and you continue to work with a poor posture for the remainder of the day. You leave the office now with a twinge in your back, tension in the neck or an ache in your wrist.
The bad news. You may or may not be feeling discomfort right now but very, very soon you will be. As you continue to work in a poor posture with a lack of rest breaks your body slowly but surely will start to fail on you. Musculoskeletal disorders are cumulative so they don’t appear out of nowhere. They appear over a period of time. It could be week, months or even years before you experience any discomfort.
The good news. You can make a small change with a big impact very easily. You can’t work comfortably at your workstation with just a chair. You need a desk, a monitor, a keyboard and mouse, good lighting, and good ambient environment. Let’s start with your chair first. Your feet should be flat on the floor, there should be a 2 inch gap between the back of your knee and the seat, backrest/lumbar support adjusted to the small of your back and slightly reclined, armrests should be no higher than seated elbow height. Most importantly of all make sure your chair is in a dynamic position. The desk. The top of the desk surface should be adjusted to your seated elbow height. The height of your desk is so important in creating a comfortable environment. Your keyboard and mouse. These should be close to you and within your neutral reach zone. Your monitor. The top of the monitor should be set at eye level and an arm’s length away with regards to distance. Your lighting and ambient environment should be comfortable to help avoid eye strain.
This gives you a good starting point in minimising the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, increasing productivity and generally making you feel more comfortable at your workstation. One more thing, don’t forget to take regular breaks. No matter how well setup your workstation is, if you don’t take breaks, you will be back to square one. Let’s go home feeling as fresh as we woke up!