Is your office workstation interfering with your productivity? Whether you work in a commercial office or a home office, you’ll probably spend most of your time at your workstation. If it’s not properly set up, it could hinder your ability to work while also contributing to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). You can avoid these problems, however, by following these 12 tips when setting up your workstation.
#1) Choose an Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse
Don’t assume that all computer keyboards and mouses are made equal. Generic models generally lack both the features and ergonomic design of their premium counterparts. If you’re still using a generic keyboard and mouse, consider upgrading to a premium keyboard and mouse with an ergonomic design.
An ergonomic keyboard has a curved design in which the rows of keys are slightly angled rather than horizontal, whereas an ergonomic mouse is slightly raised so that you can hold and use it naturally. Ergonomic computer peripherals such as these reduce stress on your wrists to protect against carpal tunnel syndrome and related repetitive stress injuries.
#2) Place Keyboard and Mouse on Slide-Out Tray
If your desk has a slide-out tray, you should use this surface for your computer keyboard and mouse. Placing your keyboard and mouse directly on your desk won’t necessarily hurt your wrists, nor will it contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome, but it may cause eyestrain.
For optimal and strain-free viewing, your eyes should be roughly parallel to the top of your computer monitor. When your keyboard and mouse are placed directly on your desk, you’ll probably have to look down at your monitor, which may lead to eyestrain. A slide-out tray allows you to maintain an appropriate height at your workstation in which your eyes are parallel to the uppermost edge of your computer monitor.
#3) Upgrade Your Office Chair
According to a study conducted by researchers at Cornell University, roughly half of all workers suffer from back pain. Not surprisingly, rates of back pain are higher among office workers than workers in other industries or sectors. When you sit in place for up to eight hours a day, you may develop back pain. This is because sitting increases pressure on your intervertebral discs 300% more than that of standing.
To create an ergonomic workstation that promotes productivity and discourages back pain, you must invest in a high-quality office chair.
Here are a few tips to follow when upgrading your office chair:
- Consider the fabric and whether it’s able to withstand heavy use.
- Make sure the office chair has adequate lumbar support for your lower back.
- Choose an office chair with armrests that can be raised or lowered.
- A high-quality office chair should also feature an adjustable height.
- Choose an office chair with rolling wheels, known as casters.
- For maximum comfort, choose an office chair with a reclining backrest.
- Check the manufacturer’s warranty before purchasing.
- Avoid purchasing a used or secondhand office chair and, instead, stick with a new model.
#4) Use a Chair Mat for Carpeted Floors
If your office workstation has carpeted floors, consider using a chair mat. Why do you need a chair mat for carpeted floors exactly? Well, it’s difficult to roll an office chair across carpet. Depending on the thickness of the carpet, you may be forced to physically lift and move your office chair. A chair mat solves this problem by creating a smooth and flat surface on which you can roll your office chair.
Chair mats feature a heavy-duty plastic construction, with one side of the mat consisting of a smooth and flat surface, and the other side consisting of spikes. To use a chair mat, place the spiked side down into your carpet so that the smooth and flat smooth is visible on top. You can then place your office chair directly on the mat’s smooth and flat surface, allowing you to move around your workstation with greater ease.
#5) Install a Document Holder
A document holder is an invaluable tool for a productive office workstation. As the name suggests, it’s designed to hold one or more documents. Without a document holder, you’ll have to lay documents flat on your desk. Of course, it’s difficult to view documents for long periods of time in this position. Using a document holder, though, you can place documents next to your computer monitor, allowing you to read them more quickly and with greater ease.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), document holders can “reduce or eliminate” MSD risk factors like fatigue, eyestrain, and awkward postures. Considering that document holders are available for as little as $10, most office workers will agree that it’s a smart investment. Granted, you won’t be able to write on a document holder, but you will be able to comfortably read documents using this innovative office accessory. As a result, a document holder can increase the speed at which you read paper documents.
#6) Personalize Your Workstation With Decorations
Personalizing your office workstation with decorations does more than just improve its aesthetics. Research cited by Psychology Today found that workers are more productive in personalized workstations than generic, non-personalized workstations. It’s unknown exactly how or why personalized workstations promote productivity, but the evidence is clear: Workers tend to produce more work in less time if personalized environments that are unique to their respective personal identity.
Here are some different ways to personalize your office workstation:
- Add framed photos of family members.
- Create and display your own artwork.
- Display collectibles of personal interest.
- Integrate one or more small potted plants into the décor.
- Show off your favorite coffee mug.
- If you have personalized business cards, display them on your desk.
- Display your work-related goals and objectives.
- Create a to-do list.
- Add color to your workstation.
#7) Increase Lighting
The amount of lighting in your workstation can affect your productivity. If your workstation is poorly lit, you may struggle to read text on your computer monitor as well as text on paper documents. Studies have even shown a direct correlation between workplace lighting and productivity and well-being. Therefore, you must ensure your office workstation has adequate lighting.
Overhead lighting alone isn’t always enough to fully illuminate an office workstation. It can certainly help, but in many cases, you’ll need a supplemental source of lighting. Task lighting is particularly effective for office workstations because of its ability to provide direct, controlled lighting. By definition, the term “task lighting” refers to any lamp or light fixture that provides illumination for a specific task. In offices, task lighting generally consists of adjustable table lamps. If you’re writing a document, you can adjust the lamp so that it shines directly on your desk where you are writing.
#8) Place Telephone Within Arm’s Reach
If you regularly use a telephone – not your smartphone – in your line of work, place it within arm’s reach at your office workstation. If you’re forced to roll to the opposite end of your workstation to access the telephone, you’ll waste a substantial amount of time that could be used for other, more productive tasks. For an ideal office workstation, the telephone should be within arm’s reach, meaning you can grab it without moving your chair or body. By keeping the telephone close by, you’ll be able to answer and place calls more quickly.
#9) Adjust Chair Height
Regardless of which office chair you use, you’ll need to adjust the height to achieve a comfortable and ergonomic sitting position. If your chair is too low, it will stress your knees and thighs. If it’s too high, it will stress your spine. So, how high should you adjust your office chair for maximum comfort?
A good rule of thumb is to raise or lower your office chair until your thighs are parallel with the floor and your legs are perpendicular to the floor. In other words, your thighs and legs should create a 90-degree angle when you are sitting. Assuming your office chair features an adjustable height, you should be able to raise or lower it accordingly. Some office chairs have a lever that, when engaged, will raise or lower the chair. If you’re sitting in the chair and engage the lever, it will lower. If you’re not sitting in the chair and engage the lever, it will raise. Known as the actuator lever, it’s almost always found underneath the seat on the right side.
#10) Place Monitor Directly in Front
Don’t overlook the importance of proper monitor placement at your office workstation. If you’re only using a single computer monitor, you should place it directly in front of your body. As previously mentioned, your eyes should be parallel to the top of your monitor. However, this is only useful if your monitor is directly in front of your body. If your monitor is to the left or right, you’ll have to turn your neck to view it. And if you work in front of a computer for multiple consecutive hours a day, this could lead to neck pain. Placing your monitor directly in front of your body allows for a natural and relaxed viewing experience that doesn’t strain your neck.
Not all office workers use a single computer monitor, though. In recent years, many office workers have upgraded their workstation to include two monitors. According to Business.com, workers are roughly 20% to 30% more productive when using two monitors rather than just one. If you currently use two monitors, or if you’re planning to use two monitors in the near future, position them in front of your body an angle. Both monitors should be angled inwards at the center. When looking forward, you should see the sides of both monitors. With this format, you’ll only have to turn your head slightly to view the monitors.
#11) Run Cables Through Desk Grommets
Is your office workstation cluttered with cables? While the advent of Wi-Fi has led to fewer cables in the modern office, most workstations still have about a half-dozen cables. All of these cables can create a chaotic and cluttered environment that consumes valuable space at your workstation.
The good news is that most office desks now feature pre-cut holes and passages through which you can run cables. Known as grommets, they offer an effective and discreet solution for excessive cables. Rather than running cables across the top of your desk, for example, you can run them through a grommet. The grommet is simply a piece of material that’s affixed to an opening in a desk.
Desk grommets are available in several styles. Some have a U-shaped opening, whereas others have a circular-shaped opening. The material in which grommets are made also varies. You’ll find grommets made of wood, plastic, and even metal. Feel free to experiment with different grommets to determine which works best at your office workstation. You can typically swap out your desk’s current grommet with a new grommet of similar size and shape.
#12) Add a File Cabinet
No office workstation is complete without a file cabinet. Depending on its size, as well as the size of the paper, a typical file cabinet can store between 2,000 to 4,000 sheets of paper. More importantly, it allows you to neatly categorize your documents so that you can find and access them more quickly in the future.
Before purchasing a file cabinet, determine exactly where you want to place it. You may not have the luxury of using a full-size file cabinet. If you work at a small cubicle, for instance, you may have to settle for a smaller, half-sized file cabinet – but that’s okay. Even small file cabinets can prove invaluable for office workstations.
If you’re worried that your file cabinet will tip over, choose a file cabinet with built-in counterweights. Counterweights are designed to weigh down the file cabinet at the bottom, thus making it difficult to tip over. Another feature to consider when shopping for a file cabinet is a locking mechanism. With a locking mechanism, you can safeguard your important documents from theft and tampering.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.