How to Create an Ergonomic Workspace

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How to Create an Ergonomic Workspace

Raise your hand if you have a desk job.

Raise your hand if you work from home.

Raise your hand if you have neck, shoulder, and/or back pain.

Let’s face it, we live in a world that is designed for forward head postures. Whether it be on your phone, laptop, when driving, or reading a book– it is easy to find yourself leaning forward in a slouched position. Those who work office or seated desk jobs are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of poor posture. 8 hours a day? 40 hours a week? 160+ hours a month?

The coronavirus pandemic has undeniably changed the way Americans work, resulting in an increase in remote working. Heck, 3+ years later you might STILL be working from home! What does your desk setup look like?

Ergonomic Workspace Checklist:
  • Your computer monitor or laptop screen should be centered in front of the eyes and arm’s length away, when sitting with good posture. Think about positioning the top of the screen at eyebrow level. Consider purchasing a laptop riser/stand to elevate your screen.
  • Keep your keyboard and mouse close to avoid reaching forward, with elbows at your sides and forearms parallel to the floor. You want your arms to feel supported, so your shoulders can stay relaxed. A portable keyboard is vital if you decide if you use a laptop riser/stand.
  • Feet should be flat on the floor (or supported with a foot rest) with knees equal to, or slightly lower than, your hips. You may consider removing your desk drawer if it gets in your way.
  • Utilize some sort of low back support to avoid collapsing or rounding back into a slouched position. Some chairs provide a lumbar curve to rest into, while others do not. The depth of the chair can also influence postures, so we recommend a support to fill in any extra space behind your back.

Does your workstation look like this? If not, it is worth your time and effort to start making some changes. An adjustable chair and/or additional supports (ex: laptop riser, foot rests) can be very helpful. Change your environment to FIT YOU, instead of changing yourself to FIT YOUR ENVIRONMENT!

Additional Tips:

  • Try to get up out of your chair and move around every 30 minutes to an hour to avoid prolonged sitting. Set a timer or alarm on your phone if you need to. The key is to stay moving and change positions to avoid the negative impact of prolonged positioning. If you use a standing desk, the same rules apply, but sit down instead (or walk around).
  • Performing exercises in your chair is another great way to keep your body moving. Squeezing your shoulder blades intermittently throughout the day will strengthen postural muscles in your back, and can ultimately improve your postural awareness. Let’s make good posture a habit! We also recommend neck and upper back movements (rotations, side bending) to reduce tension.

  • Add in lumbar support to make it easier to maintain good postures. We like positioning a deflated beach ball along the curve of the low back to help reduce slouching. Visualize your ears, shoulders, and hips in line with each other.
  • Try using a headset if you find yourself on the phone often. Tilting your head to hold the phone up to your ear can lead to neck problems.
  • Make sure to wear corrective lenses if you have vision issues. This will reduce excessive forward leaning or backwards movement from the computer. Blue light glasses can also be beneficial in reducing eye strain and promote good eye health.

Our Favorite Products

Adjustable laptop riser – I use this riser to prop my laptop up at work. I personally find it very beneficial and like how it can be adjusted to any angle or level I want. It can also be used as a stand for books.

Adjustable office chairs –  Whether you are tall, short, or somewhere in-between, find a chair you can adjust to fit your specific needs.

The Bigger Picture

Postural awareness and desk ergonomics are important, but what we value most is movement. Sedentary or prolonged positioning can lead to poor health in general (ex: deconditioning, cardiovascular disease, and obesity). We encourage you to be mindful of how long you are sitting, whether it’s behind a computer screen, phone screen, book, steering wheel, television, etc. If you need help with desk ergonomics or if you are not sure what type of exercises to perform, the clinicians at Complete Physical Therapy are here to help. Being proactive about this now will help you avoid potential problems down the road.

Check out our desk ergonomics video below to see a real life example:

Video 52 – Desk Ergonomics