Do you sit at a desk most of the day for work?
You’re not alone. In some professions, workers spend up to of 90 percent of their time sitting – often at desks, typing away on keyboards and looking at computer screens.
With so much time spent at a desk, it’s important to make sure yours is adjusted to your body, says Eric Hyer, occupational health coordinator at Tidelands Health.
Too often, we adjust our bodies to accommodate our workstation rather than the other way around, as it should be, he says.
“I think the key to any of it is adjustability,” Hyer says. “The whole point of ergonomics is to try to make the workstation adjust to the worker.”
The wrong kind of desk or setup – a computer screen that is too high or too low, for instance — can cause physical consequences like musculoskeletal disorders, poor posture, vision difficulties and carpal tunnel syndrome, Hyer says.
“Your body works best in a neutral-spine type of position,” Hyer says. “Having your body out of alignment can require a lot of muscle strain and risks injury.”
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How do you choose a desk? Hyer says that standard desks from office supply stores will fit most people, but you may need to buy items like an adjustable chair to sit at the desk properly. Adjust the chair so you can sit with your thighs parallel to the floor and your feet flat on the ground.
If your desk is too tall, you may need a footrest for your feet, Hyer says.
You may also need to consider how to configure your computer monitor and keyboard for the best posture, he said.
Monitors should be set up at eye level so that you don’t need to look up or down to view the screen comfortably, he said. If you use a laptop with a small screen, you may want to invest in a docking station and larger monitor to help reduce eye strain.
When it comes to your keyboard, the key is to keep your wrists flat and supported. That may mean you need to bring your keyboard closer to your body than you currently have it, he says. Also, if your keyboard is on top of your desk, it’s usually best to avoid using the tabs on the back, which can cause you to angle your wrists improperly.
Hyer discourages using L-shaped desks because people usually place their monitors in the corner. “You can’t get your chair in close enough to sit correctly, and it causes a forward neck posture,” he says.
And, aside from your setup, you can help your body by taking “ergonomic breaks” throughout the day by getting up to move about every 20 minutes, Hyer says.