How to make your workstation less of a pain in the neck

Let’s assume that you don’t work for a huge company with an enlightened human resources team and hot and cold running ergonomics experts waiting for your to snap your fingers.

Let’s assume you work for quite a small company or for yourself. And let’s assume that you are sitting at your work desk now. And that you’re feeling a bit achey, that your neck doesn’t feel quite right and that your fingers and wrists could do with a really long holiday.

On the basis of all those assumptions, the answers lie with you. Not to get a new job, but to take control of your own work space, and become the one who works out your own ergonomics. So to make sure that you’re not a victim of your own workplace, and end up needing an osteopath, look at these issues.

And for more general advice on protecting your back in the workplace, look here.

Find your natural posture

Push your chair back from your desk and make yourself comfortable – feet on the floor, hands in your lap, relaxed shoulders and your backside slid back on the chair. This, then, is your natural position (if there is such a thing in an office chair). Your back is pretty straight, though not bolt-upright and you feel ‘right’.

Remember that position, because you want to be as close to that as you can.

Sort out your keyboard and mouse

You may have a mouse or a mousepad, but either way your desktop of laptop should be positioned in a way that keeps your elbows to your sides, and your arms at or below a 90-degree angle, reducing the strain.

The keyboard should be 1 to 2 inches above your thighs, which may mean one of those pull-out keyboard trays. Or a lower desk.

Position your screen

Keep your screen fairly close so that you aren’t leaning forward to read. If you’re one of those fancy-dan designer types, and have two monitors set them up side by side (no gap), and place the secondary monitor off-centre (don’t pretend you use them both equally, no-one does that). Once you’ve done that, sit back and extend your arm – the screen should just be brushed by your fingertips.

Once you’ve done that little trick, close your eyes. Now open – your eyeline should be on the address bar of your browser (assuming you’re at full-screen).

Sort out your chair

Go back to that natural position – and make sure you have a chair with the back support that promotes that position. Once you’ve got that right, then, once you’re on there, there should be a small, fist-sized, space between your knees and the edge of your chair, with your feet flat on the floor and your thighs should be slightly lower than your hips. And you should be able to keep that natural position without any strain (or else its either not natural or your chair won’t allow it).

Don’t just sit there
No matter how good your workstation is, you can’t spend all day sat at your desk. Take regular breaks for physical activity, at least once an hour to walk around and stretch. That’ll make the biggest difference of all.

Written by Nikki Sturzaker

Osteopath in Streatham, South London. Treating back, joint and muscular pain.

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