How to Setup an Ergonomic Workspace, According to the Pros

Making your workspace comfortable in the long run is well worth the time investment

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Your workspace might feel comfortable in the moment, but haphazard ergonomics can take a toll on your body if you aren't careful. Make an audit of your workspace and make sure it is up to snuff before aches and pains make you wish you'd done it earlier.

Proper ergonomics and immediate comfort aren't the same thing, so it's a good idea to defer to specialists. Experts from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine recently published the results of a survey in the journal Ergonomics in Design, and it stands as excellent professional-grade advice you can apply right now for benefits that pay off in the weeks to come.

Make sure your screen is at the right height.

A leading cause of pain from makeshift workstations stem from an improperly oriented screen. The study found that many laptop users' screens are too low, causing neck strain from looking down for hours on end. Those with external displays often had them too high, causing a different but similar problem.

The answer? The top of your main screen should be at eye level, to ensure that maximum screen real-estate is viewable from a neutral, forward head position. Any additional screens should be off to one side, but viewable straight on. While it's easy to accomplish with an external display, it can be a little tougher with a laptop. But a stack of books can help raise it up to an appropriate level with ease, though it may leave you with some trouble typing, which brings us to step two.

Forget your laptop keyboard and upgrade with some peripherals.

Laptops are great for portability, but their ergonomics are inherently subpar. Their keyboards and touch pads are cramped and virtually unusable if you've hefted your screen up to an appropriate height. That's where external peripherals come in. The study results showed that over half of participants were stuck with their laptop input devices, where external options could improve workstation ergonomics significantly.

Not only are external devices better for ergonomics; they're also just great for making your workstation more fun to use. Grab an external keyboard--but consider going mechanical. Bluetooth mice are great, but might I suggest a trackball for the pinnacle of comfort you'll never come back from? A big external monitor will pay dividends not just in neck comfort, but in screen real-estate. And a USB dock or hub makes it easy to attach and detach all this gear in one go.

Use the whole chair.

Being on the edge of your seat is fine if you're watching a blockbuster, but it's bad news for your body if you're doing it all work day long. The study found that the majority of workers were failing to get were failing to get the maximum support from their chair, either being too far forward to benefit from lumbar support, experiencing arm strain by not using armrests or having them improperly adjusted. Simple measures like scooting closer to your work surface, or adjusting armrest height can go a long way to improving comfort.

Get up and move around.

Whatever your workstation looks like and no matter how ergonomically well-considered it is, a crucial measure everyone can take is to get up and move around. Studies show that you should be changing position at least once ever 30 minutes, whether you're simply standing up for a bit, taking a walk around the block, or moving between a sitting and standing desk if you are fortunate enough to have both at your disposal.


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