Getting the right office desk and chair set up
If you work in an office or at home, chances are the majority of your time will be spent in front of a computer, typing away. This lifestyle can wreak havoc on both your physical and mental health. Sitting for 6 hours a day, five days a week equates to 1,560 hours – or almost 65 days – every year. Over the number years you work, many people will spend more time lying than in bed!
Research has shown that sitting for longer than 20 minutes has negative effects on your body, including an increase in musculoskeletal problems such as back and neck pain. Sitting also affects other parts of the body and your health as well.
People who sit for long periods are twice as likely to have heart disease as those who stand. Additionally, when you are sitting still your insulin levels drop by 24% (increasing the risk of diabetes), your good cholesterol drops by 20%, and the enzymes that reduce fat drop by 90% – meaning you are burning fewer calories.
Whilst we’re told that standing is much better for us resulting in the increased number of standing desks on the market. This is not the case as standing for prolonged periods has been also been linked with other vascular problems and increases the risk of varicose veins.
Although it may be difficult when your in deep work, the reality is that we all need to step away from our keyboards more frequently and simply move. We recommend using the 20/20 principle of 20 seconds moving every 20 minutes to help avoid these negative effects.
The correct office set up
Correct office ergonomics can help to prevent aches, pains and health problems in the future. In addition to moving regularly, getting the correct chair height, adequate equipment spacing and good desk posture — can help you and your joints stay comfortable at work.
There should be space to get your legs and any arm rests under the desk. If you can’t do this due to the arm rests, remove them. If you cannot remove the arm rests then, ideally, the desk height should be adjusted. If you are sharing a desk with others, it is very beneficial if your desk height is adjustable. The ideal height of the desk is if you are seated with your chair correctly adjusted. Your arms should be bent to 90 degrees and the desk should be set to the height of your forearms.
Under the desk, make sure there’s clearance for your knees, thighs and feet. If the desk is too low and can’t be adjusted, place sturdy boards or blocks under the desk legs. If the desk is too high and can’t be adjusted, raise your chair. If your chair is too high for you to rest your feet flat on the floor — or the height of your desk requires you to raise the height of your chair — use a footrest. If a footrest is not available, try using a small stool or a stack of sturdy books instead. If your desk has a hard edge, pad the edge or use a wrist rest. Don’t store items under your desk.
People come in all different shapes and sizes, and so do office chairs. Choose a chair that supports your spinal curves and has a high enough back to support your whole back. Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet firmly rest flat on the floor or on a footrest while keeping your knees level with your hips and thighs parallel to the floor. Adjust armrests so your arms gently rest on them with your shoulders relaxed.
Continually looking up or down can lead to fatigue and cause discomfort and pain. When sitting at a desk using a monitor it is important that it is at the correct height. To set the height of your monitor, make sure the top edge – not the middle – of the screen is in line with your eyes. This height will ensure you keep your neck in a neutral position making it easier to scan down with your eyes. There are people – including those that wear bi-focal or varifocal glasses – who may need to have their monitor slightly lower. The distance between the monitor and the user should allow a viewing angle of 30 degrees across the screen.
The amount we have to scan with our eyes dictates the distance from the monitor at which you should sit. If the monitor is too far away it can make you lean forward, cause eye fatigue and contribute to place load on the on the neck. If the monitor is too close it can make your eyes work harder to focus (convergence issues) and may require you to sit further away with your head back causing you to to type with outstretched arms.
Ideally, the viewing distance should be between 20 and 40 inches (50 and 100cm) from the eye to the front surface of the computer screen (about an arm’s length). The wider the screen, the further away you will need to be.
Keyboard and mouse
Although many of us are willing to change our monitors and chairs to improve our posture, we often overlook our keyboards and mice and the position of our elbows, wrists and hands. Research has shown that 24% of people who use computers for more than two hours a day experience elbow pain with 67% of people experiencing wrist pain and back pain.
When using a keyboard, try to keep your wrist in a neutral position; keeping your hands parallel to each other and not angled inwards or outwards. This is because both the inwards (radial deviation) and outwards (ulna deviation) angles stretch one side of the elbow/wrist whilst forcing the other side to work harder, and can result in tennis or golfer’s elbow or wrist pain.
Place your mouse within easy reach and on the same surface as your keyboard. While using your mouse, keep your wrists straight, your upper arms close to your body, and your hands at or slightly below the level of your elbows. Use keyboard shortcuts to reduce extended mouse use. If possible, adjust the sensitivity of the mouse so you can use a light touch to operate it.
If you spend a lot of time sat at a computer, investing in equipment to help improve your posture and health is important. However, it is not a replacement for movement! Sit up straight with your shoulders back and follow the 20/20 principle to help you reduce the consequences of sitting.
If you have neck or back pain or need any advice, help or support please don’t hesitate to contact us.
The information contained in this article is intended as general guidance and information only and should not be relied upon as a basis for planning individual medical care or as a substitute for specialist medical advice in each individual case.