With people increasingly working from computers at the office or remotely, more emphasis is being placed on the importance of ergonomics. Repeated or long-term motion of any kind places stress on the body. Aches and pains, especially in the neck and back region are common for desk workers. Proper workspace design reduces these strains and creates a more comfortable working environment.
Ergonomics focuses on human anatomy and behavior in the design process. This practice incorporates the interaction between the product and user to design products, systems, or processes that benefit the person using them. An ergonomic desk incorporates all these features and creates a work space catered to the individual worker.
Ergonomics started during the industrial revolution to help factory workers avoid injury. As we began working on computers more, ergonomics evolved to address new working conditions and the new associated injuries. Common injuries from desk work include carpal tunnel syndrome, Raynaud's disease, back pain, ganglion cysts, tendonitis, and other musculoskeletal disorders.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common office injuries, caused by chronic pressure on the meridian nerve running from shoulder to hand. Symptoms of this ailment include chronic pain, numbness, or tingling in the hand and is aggravated by prolonged keyboard and mouse usage. Since a workforce riddled with injuries costs money, companies are focused on preventing workplace injuries and providing an environment that allows higher productivity in safer spaces.
Designers created the ergonomic desk to address these issues.
What Is an Ergonomic Desk?
The design of an ergonomic desk focuses on addressing chronic issues from desk work. By calculating the most effective desk height, equipment placement, chair fit, and design, workers can prevent physical injury and increase efficiency. Ergonomic desks place your body at its most natural and comfortable posture and allow for more movement throughout the workday.
An ergonomic desk focuses on the following items:
- 1Proper desk height
- 2Chair height and support
- 3Equipment placement on the desktop
- 4Increased opportunity for movement
The goal of an ergonomic desk is to reduce body strain and increase productivity. Sitting in one posture for extended periods of time wears on the body so, for long-term health, it is essential to focus on body placement and movement. Productivity in the work place often comes down to good design with fewer distractions and increased worker engagement, ergonomics keeps the focus on these concepts.
Ergonomic desks create more movement in the workplace which burns more calories. Estimates show that a 180-pound person burns around 970 calories over a seven-hour workday. Switching to a sit-stand desk burns 1260 calories a day, an increase of 290 calories. More calories burnt means better overall health and a longer life expectancy.
Overall Better Health
With the rise of technology, people are living more sedentary lives. This change in lifestyle has led to an increase in health conditions like obesity and diabetes. More activity is the first step in reducing or preventing these diseases. A sit-stand desk promotes movement and can be a great tool for those not used to regular exercise.
Longer Life Expectancy
Active people live longer than their more sedentary counterparts. This means sitting at a desk for long periods of time can cause physical harm. As you sit, fat accumulates in your organs, muscles lose tone and definition, and your body tires more easily. Due to these factors, the potential for weight gain increases for workers who sit all day.
Ergonomics is not just beneficial for the body, it also strengthens worker productivity and focus by avoiding distractions with good design. An ergonomic desk helps employees feel better. When you feel better, you work better. It also increases engagement by providing easier access to coworkers, supplies, and equipment.
Benefits of ergonomic desks include:
How to Pick One?
There are many models of ergonomic desks based on your working space and needs. From movable desktops to units placed on top of your desktop, there are options for your adjustable workspace.
First, before trying any desk models, determine what activity takes most of your time. Are you answering phones all day? Do you need to write and respond to emails? Will your workday involve a lot of clicking and keyboard shortcuts? Your answers to these questions will shed light on the most effect desk position for your work and help inform the best desk for you.
Then you need to understand your body's best posture. This will ensure your setup prevents strain and promotes long-term health in the workplace.
Find The Perfect Posture
Find your natural posture by sitting naturally in your chair with back straight and both feet flat on the ground. With your hands on your lap, relax your shoulders and note the small bend where your back sits above your behind. This is your body's most comfortable position and is the posture you will focus on when building your ergonomic workstation.
Now you've found the perfect sitting posture, it's time to focus on keyboard and mouse placement. Your elbows should be at your sides and at or below a 90-degree angle. Place your keyboard one to two inches above your thighs and ensure it is tilted down and away from you. This ensures your arms and hand follow the slope of your thighs. Position your keyboard and mouse shoulder-distance apart.
Position your screens an arm's length away from your chair. The top of your monitor should fall at eye level and tilt the screen up or down to prevent glare.
Last but not least is the most important piece - the chair. Using your natural posture, position your chair so your feet comfortably rest on the floor and your thighs are below your hips. There should be a fist-sized space between your knees and the edge of the chair seat.
Now you have your perfect posture and desk placement, let's examine ergonomic desks.
Standing Versus Sit-stand Ergonomic Desks
Standing desks have become increasingly popular in the last decade. More focus has been placed on the dangers of sitting all day. However, standing all day can be just as dangerous as sitting. Prolonged activity of any kind places strain on the body. When looking for the most efficient workspace it is important to consider a desk that promotes movement by allowing you to both sit and stand.
While any workspace benefits from basic ergonomic design, sit-stand desks are the best and most flexible option to promote more movement throughout the workday. These desks allow you to move from sitting to standing, often with just the touch of a button. When moving from sitting to standing it is important to keep in mind, the perfect posture principles listed above.
Screen height should always be at eye level and place keyboards at that comfortable 90-degree elbow angle. Adjust the height of your desktop accordingly until you reach the ideal height for standing. You can find desk height to human height calculators online. The goal is to keep your best posture in a standing position as well so avoid bending over or resting on your desk.
When you get tired from standing, just lower your desk to a seating position. Movement is the key here, not prolonged sitting or standing, so don't feel that you need to stand longer to get the benefits of an adjustable ergonomic desk.
Ergonomic design helps our bodies work in the most comfortable and effective position. By incorporating natural body postures, ergonomic desks and workstations help prevent long-term or chronic injury through design. Proper desk height, equipment placement, and chair fit will reduce muscle and joint strain and prevent common injuries such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and tendonitis.
Incorporating ergonomics also increases worker productivity and engagement. People who feel better work better and good design reduces distractions of physical discomfort while working. Promoting movement in the workplace also results in higher levels of coworker engagement. In short, investment in better workspaces will result in a better bottom line for your business.
Changing to an ergonomic desk is just the first step. With the proper workstation, it is easier to focus on your posture. If a standing desk is new to you, set a timer to stand for 10 minutes every hour. This will allow you to practice your setup and get comfortable working from both a sitting and standing position. As with anything, these methods take mindful practice.
Remember, even with the best ergonomic desk setup, it's essential to keep moving. Sitting or standing for long stretches at a time places strain on the body. To ensure you're not setting yourself up for long-term aches and pains, make movement part of your workday. Set reminders or timers to ensure you don't forget. Our bodies are made for movement and though, office work usually involves a lot of sitting, it's important to remember movement. Your body will thank you!