How to Make Your Office Setup Ergonomic—And Avoid Health Issues

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In a post-pandemic world, more and more people are working from home. From 2019 to 2021, the amount of American workers logging in remotely more than tripled. As of 2022, 35% of Americans had the option to work from home five days a week.

While working from home has brought about a number of benefits including shorter commutes, higher productivity and a better work-life balance, one issue remains: Employees are still sitting too much. The average American sits between 6.5 to 8 hours a day, and they’re straining their bodies in the process. 

Thankfully, if you work at home, you can control your setup and invest in ergonomic products that are better for your body. Or, if you go into the office, you may be able to convince your boss to buy an ergonomic setup for you. 

Learn about why it’s important to have the right chair, desk and other products for an ergonomic setup. Then, figure out what will work best for your situation.

Potential health issues caused by a non-ergonomic office setup

Ergonomic setups maximize efficiency and comfort while protecting your body from experiencing certain health issues. According to Dr. Matthew Cavanaugh, a chiropractor at Cavanaugh Chiropractic Clinic in Lafayette, Louisiana, a non-ergonomic setup can lead to many negative health outcomes.

“Having a poor ergonomic setup can contribute to musculoskeletal issues like tendonitis and bursitis by putting excess stress and strain on ligaments and joints by not having them in properly supported positions,” he explains. “It can even contribute to poor posture. Working in a place with poor ergonomics can also result in decreased productivity because of the pain and discomfort caused by the conditions poor ergonomics creates.”

Essentially, non-ergonomic setups can cause issues in the neck, hips, back, hands and wrists, according to Dr. Gerda Maissel, a board-certified rehabilitation physician and founder of private patient navigation company My MD Advisor. Health problems include strains and carpal tunnel syndrome. 

“At home, people tend to use whatever chair, desk or table they have around,” she says. “Sometimes this means no space for the legs under a home desk, so the person sits twisted. This results in back and hip pain.”

Mike Pace, a certified ergonomics expert and senior channel sales and marketing manager with Contour Design, says using the wrong mouse and keyboard can lead to joint stiffness and fatigue in the shoulders and arms. It can also cause tingling or numbness in the hands.

“Luckily, these ailments are a culmination of hundreds of hours spent in an improper posture, which allows for early detection and the opportunity to mitigate the issues as soon as they start,” he says. 

How to make your home office ergonomic 

When working from home, you may be tempted to sit at your kitchen table or work from your bed or couch. Perhaps you go to a local coffee shop and sit in one of the booths. Or, while at work, you set up shop in one of the quiet telephone booths. While all of this may seem comfortable in the moment, you could be harming your body. Instead, invest in an ergonomic home office setup, and you’ll contribute to your overall health—and productivity. 

For instance, instead of sitting anywhere, Maissel urges workers to get an ergonomic chair with supportive armrests that adjust. 

“I’ve also seen people use the wrong height desk or chair, although this can happen in offices, too,” she notes. “Armrests should be at the proper height and width to support the individual’s forearms while typing.” 

When sitting on your ergonomic chair, make sure your feet are on the floor. Keep a hands-width amount of space between your knees and the seat. Ensure you have good lumbar support, and check that your arm rests allow your elbows to be at a 90-degree angle and even with the desk, according to Pace. 

“Always use an external mouse and keyboard,” he adds. “Do not work off a laptop.” 

Another good idea is to purchase a standing desk to avoid sitting all day long, according to Cavanaugh.

“There is a 20/8/2 rule that was developed by Dr. Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University,” Cavanaugh says. “The rule is meant to remind you that for every 20 minutes of sitting, stand for eight minutes, and move around for two. A standing desk allows you to accomplish this without leaving your workstation.”

5 must-have products for your ergonomic home office setup

Want to get started setting up your new ergonomic space at home or in the office? Check out these helpful products.

1. RollerMouse Pro (starting at $249)

Pace recommends Contour Design’s RollerMouse Pro, “to help keep your hands, wrists and arms in a better posture while working to mitigate the risks and alleviate pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.” This mouse includes a scroll wheel, roller bar, wrist rest and smart buttons, as well as built-in copy/paste buttons that make it simple to swiftly transfer images or text in between applications. 

2. VariDesk Converters for Desktops (starting at $152.99)

VariDesk Converters for Desktops are a cheaper option if you don’t want to invest in an actual standing desk, since they convert any desktop into a standing desk. Cavanaugh is a big fan of the VariDesk Converters, which don’t require any assembly and can accommodate up to two monitors. 

3. Steelcase Gesture Chair (starting at $1,107)

For a sleek-looking ergonomic chair, try the Steelcase Gesture Chair, also recommended by Cavanaugh. It comes in a variety of colors and has a contoured back. This chair is sold with or without a headrest, depending on your preferences, and has wheels for the carpet or hardwood floors. You can also add in additional lumbar support if necessary.

4. Rain Design Laptop Stand ($39.90) 

The Rain Design Laptop Stand is simple but effective. It comes in silver, gold, black or pink, and raises your laptop screen to eye level, or 5.9 inches. There is a cable management hole in the back for your charger and other wires, and you can place your external keyboard underneath the stand when it’s not in use. 

5. Logitech ERGO K860 Wireless Ergonomic Keyboard ($129.99)

The Logitech ERGO K860 Wireless Ergonomic Keyboard connects to your computer via Bluetooth and tips up for the best ergonomic setup for typing. It’s designed to improve your posture and reduce the chances of lower back strain. It also has a memory foam layer that’s comfortable on your wrists. You may need a while to adapt, but it’s totally worth it. 

Photo by fizkes/Shutterstock.com

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