How is your desk set up?

I recently visited an accountants firm in Palmerston North – mainly to check up on my younger brother and to see what a junior accountant’s desk set up might look like.  It was so well received that the whole office got a ‘desk audit’. 

Poorly designed workspaces can be especially stressful to your upper neck and shoulder regions caused by hunching, forward neck posture, strain on your eyes and arms.So here are our ideas to make your desk work for you:

1. Height

Whether you sit or stand – your eye level should be directed to the centre of your monitor, this avoids placing pressure on your neck by looking down all day.   You can stack up your monitor with some A4 reams of printing paper or old books/encyclopedias can do the trick.

This also goes for Laptops – if you are using one for long periods of time, it should ideally be elevated on a laptop holder/pile of books so that eye level can  be centre with the screen, and a wireless keyboard and mouse will need to be used.

2. Distance and Tilt
What is the distance between you and your monitor?  Can you reach out and touch your monitor with a straight arm? If not bring it in.  Is your screen tilted roughly between 10-20 degrees?

3. Glare
Does the screen glare or reflect light? Reducing the glare is important for your eye health – can you adjust with the blinds/curtains/lighting?   I’m a huge advocate of using F.lux on my computer and devices at night as this reduces the brightness of the screen enabling me to get to sleep quicker.  For apple users google ‘apple-ios-9-3-night-shift’.

Chair and Desk
Fit your chair first and then your desk. If you have an adjustable chair that is your first win.

4. Height
Your chair needs to be high enough so you are able to rest your elbows nicely on the armrest or slightly above desk height.  Have the elbows by the side and nice and close to the body (you may need to bring your keyboard and mouse closer).  If you have an armrest, make sure it is not blocking you from getting your chair nicely under your desk and be sure to have everything in arm’s reach – phone, pen holder etc.

5. Body Position
Your wrists should be flat and slightly lower than your elbows resting nicely on the keyboard.  Feet should be flat on the floor and your thighs parallel, or slightly below (just like when you size yourself to an exercise ball).  

For shorter people (like me) – a tilted footstool or books can help to achieve this.  Avoid legs dangling from your chair as this increases the pressure into the back of the knees where major vessels and nerves travel.

For the taller people knees should not go higher than the hip, to avoid strain to the lumbar spine.  If you do suffer from back pain either having a lumbar roll to support our natural lower back curve or adjusting yourself to sit right back into the chair.

6. Document Holders
It is always better to have paperwork/textbooks either beside you clipped onto a paper/document holder so that it is in line with your screen height.  You can also buy something like a microholder which can be placed in front of you.  These accessories prevent you from continually looking down or extending arms over paperwork to reach the keyboard.

7. Posture!!! What is the ideal seated position? A variety of positions!! I believe there is no ‘perfect’ posture rather that you spice it up.  Just avoiding being in the same posture for a long period of time.  Being hunched over your keyboard, having the head forward, sitting with your leg tucked up under you is NOT ideal,  but relaxing the shoulders, maintaining a tilt in the chair at times, slightly lean back at times, being upright are all ways to add variety and finally….

8. Take a break – it’s no secret sitting and staring at a screen for long periods of time is not ideal, so moving at least 5 mins every 45 – 60 mins (just print something, boil the jug for a cuppa, ‘walk and talk’ rather than send an email or call or set an alarm).  For the sake of your vision – use the 20-20-20 rule which is look away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds at something other than your screen and at something 20 meters away.

Making a few adjustments can really make a difference, whether you are seated or standing the same rules apply. If you would like to comment or give feedback, I would love to hear from you.

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