Knowing how to sit properly at a desk seems like it should be obvious, yet many of us get it wrong without even realizing it. Combine this with the fact that we tend to spend upwards of 8 – 12 hours in our home office every day, having poor sitting habits can lead to frustrating health issues. This is why sitting at a desk properly is more important than ever.
Now that many of us are working from home, we have a lot more flexibility in our work habits. Sure, we may be tempted to camp out on the couch or perch on a bar stool in our kitchen, but this can harm our bodies over the long haul.
Today we’ll go over a few of the ways that you can accomplish an efficient and productive workflow while also utilizing the discipline of ergonomics. The reason this is relevant is that as we work from home we want to keep fatigue, eye strain, sore muscles, and musculoskeletal injuries at bay.
How Can Ergonomics Help You Sit Properly at Your Desk?
Many of us often think that it doesn’t matter how we sit. We just want to find a comfortable position and get some work done. The problem is that our habitual sitting patterns, if poorly executed, can cause needless strain upon our body in the long run.
For instance, we may develop a sore shoulder and wonder what the source of our pain is from. Did we sleep on it wrong? Did we lift something too heavy? When the truth of the matter could simply be that we were sitting at our desk in such a way that led to the pain. Bad work habits can cause unnecessary strain and even injury.
You see, we can handle a variety of movements and bodily positions. The problem arises when these movements become habitual and repetitive. Over time, soft tissue damage can accrue. When this damage occurs it can limit our overall range of motion and lead to other problems. Therefore, it’s extremely important for us to sit and work at our desks properly.
The study of ergonomics takes all of this into consideration and utilizes common sense solutions to alleviate and manage common problem areas.
What is the Discipline of Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the study of how the body is best served in routine working conditions. In other words, ergonomics is the science of adapting a work environment to the needs of an employee. It factors in things like weight, height, reach, and angle.
Additionally, utilizing the principles of ergonomics enables an employee to avoid musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Sitting and working properly at your work desk will help prevent damage to muscles, ligaments, joints, nerves, tendons, and the like. To learn more about ergonomics click here.
Common Office Related Injuries Often Include:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Arises when our wrists are in an awkward position while also doing repetitive actions like typing. To avoid injury, try utilizing a keyboard like this one by Logitech or this one by Perixx .
- Headaches and Migraines – Can be triggered by poor lighting.
- Low Back Pain – Often the result of poor sitting habits.
- Upper Back Pain – Often happens with people who slouch and lean in toward their computer for much of the day.
- Neck and Shoulder Problems – Overcompensation on one arm and/or awkward sitting positions.
- Elbow Pain – Leaning into and propping yourself up on one arm.
- Vision Problems – Often occur due to poor lighting and eye strain.
How to Sit at Properly at Your Desk
There are a few things to consider when setting up your work area. You want to have a quality work desk that is suited to your stature. Your chair should enable you to sit properly at your desk without reaching or straining to use work-related tools like your computer. To help you figure out the perfect measurements, try this handy calculator.
Key Keyboard Distance
You should never have to stretch to reach for your keyboard. If your chair is at the appropriate height, you should easily be able to reach your keyboard. If it is too far away, bring it closer.
Monitor Height and Distance
Your monitor should be level with your eyes. You don’t want to be looking up or looking down at your monitor. Adjust the height of your monitor to be directly ahead of you horizontally to support a natural gaze. You can also prop up your monitor to achieve an optimal height.
Similarly, your monitor shouldn’t be too far away. If you have to lean in toward your desk to see your screen, you should move it closer to you. Also, invest in a screen that is large enough to easily facilitate the full range of activities you perform on a day to day basis.
Set the right brightness setting on your monitor. A good rule of thumb is to try and match it with the lighting in your environment. Try to avoid sitting in a dark room with a bright monitor. This can damage the eyes. Similarly, being in a bright room with low screen resolution can cause eye strain. If your monitor brightness is hurting your eyes, you need to lower the brightness in your settings.
In your overhead lighting, try to use full-spectrum lighting that mimics natural daylight. Just like plants, we as human beings need natural light. Also, harsh fluorescent lights may be harmful to our health.
Another consideration is to utilize a screen cover to reduce glare. If you are next to a bright window, you may want to purchase a computer screen cover to reduce eye strain due to glare. You can get a great one here.
A Word About Blue Light vs Red Light for Evening Work
If you’re working late into the evening, go into your computer settings and switch on your “night shift” (Mac) or “night light” (Windows) screen option. Your computer screen will take on a more reddish hue which will be kinder and softer on your eyes. Additionally, you can invest in a variable desk lamp like this one. It can change the intensity and warmth of the light it emits, depending upon the time of day.
Plus, blue light has been shown to mess with our circadian rhythms. Learn more about the dangers of blue light here or by reading this book. You can also block blue light on your monitor by getting a screen like this one or by investing in a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses.
How to Sit Properly in Your Chair
Having a good office chair can make all the difference. A quality chair will ensure that you have good posture and that you are sitting at the right height relative to your desk.
Position Your Feet
Your feet should naturally rest upon the ground. Your lower legs should form a 90-degree angle with your thighs. You never want to find yourself in a situation where your feet are dangling as this can reduce circulation. If you find yourself sitting at a high desk and your feet are unsupported, place a footrest within easy reach for optimal blood flow and comfort throughout the day.
Set the Appropriate Chair Height
As you sit up straight in your chair, the surface of your desk needs to come to the same level as your elbow. This is the most natural position for your body. Because of this, you may want to invest in an adjustable chair.
Other Chair Adjustments
- Your armrests should be at a comfortable height for the natural position of your body. Sitting up straight in your chair, your armrests should come just below your elbows. If they are too high, you may have shoulder strain, if they are too low, you may be tempted to slouch.
- The angle of your chair back should be around 90 – 100 degrees to the seat. In other words, you should not be leaning too far back in your chair as you work at your desk. Nor should you be leaning forward, as this will cause strain on your neck, shoulders, and back. Here is another great chair option.
- Additionally, you should always sit all the way back in your chair so that you are giving your lower spine plenty of support against the back of your chair. Also, make sure you are scooted in so that your legs are fully under your desk.
Remember the 90/90/90 Rule
So let’s recap, the above advice can be summed up with the 90/90/90 rule. Essentially, your elbows, hips, knees, and ankles should act as a central node that forms a 90-degree angle.
- Elbows should naturally rest at about 90 – 100-degrees
- Hips should be the center of a 90 – 100-degree angle formed by your upper legs and back
- Your knees should be at the point of a 90 – 110-degree angle formed by your upper and lower legs.
- Your ankle should also join your lower leg and feet at a 90 – 120-degree angle.
Related: How Tall is the Average Desk?
Now that you work from home you get to design a work environment that works best for you and your overall health. You get to choose the furniture you use, the lighting you work by, as well as the other interconnected elements of your workday.
Part of enjoying your home office involves doing or adding little things that make a big difference in your daily routine. It can be as simple as having the quality lighting or as easy as finding the right chair that enables your to sit at your desk properly. Use the advice in this article to find the best components for your home office.