As Americans, we are increasingly spending more time at work and more time at our desks. But this time does not have to be completely sedentary; it can actually be a time of increasing activity, encouraging blood flow, practicing proper posture, and caring for our health and well-being. Also, certain ergonomic “tweaks” can improve focus, energy, creativity, and efficiency in your work. What a great way to multitask: working better while taking care of our health. Here are a few tips to optimize your desk time:
Alternate between sitting and standing
Probably the best ergonomic adjustment you can make to your intense work life is to alternate between sitting and standing. Ideally you would use a sit to stand desk that offers many options for monitor(s) placement but that doesn’t always fit in your space, your budget or match the desk you love. So here is a great alternative that will add to your mobility, health and freedom. There are several tips to follow when setting up your workstation this way:
- Start with an ergonomic sit stand unit that sits on your desk and adjusts from a seated position to a standing position. This is a great affordable solution if the sit stand desk is not in your budget. Sitting and standing breaks up fatigue and the stress of sitting and introduces standing postures. Standing for a portion of your day helps you burn more calories, activate muscles, and improve circulation. Standing at work increases your focus, alertness and activity level. You actually access a creative part of the brain when standing.
Important features when considering sit stand units
- Wide and stable keyboard and mouse tray and a shelf that can accommodate paperwork, mobile device, tea, etc.
- There are single or dual monitor options as well as heavy-duty monitor support.
- The front mounts are the most stable, while the rear mount offers the most versatility for sharing, viewing, adjusting. There’s even taller units for those over 6’3.
- Modularity that can be moved to another desk.
- Easy to install.
- Works well both while sitting and standing, as you should alternate between the two throughout the day.
- Specify your monitor(s) make and model number to ensure the best fit.
- Once your monitor(s) height is set, both the monitor and keyboard adjust at the same time.
- Some people prefer to be farther back from the monitor. There are 1-2 set options for adjusting the distance of the keyboard from your monitor.
- Are you a spreader? If you need to access your desk more than 20% of the day, a sit to stand desk may be your best option to avoid twisting and reaching.
- Add an anti-fatigue mat to further promote good circulation and micro movement so there is blood flow increase while you stand.
Any ergonomic equipment you choose must work for your particular situation. Make sure that mat you choose can withstand high-heeled shoes and heavy chair traffic. To keep you’re your body aligned, select a mat size that keeps both feet and or chair on the mat.
- Add an ergonomic chair to optimize the time you will still be sitting throughout your workday.
If you are like me, it seems like everyone is telling you to get more exercise these days. At the annual physical, the internist says so. Every fashion magazine says so. Even my mother says so! But with so many hours spent at work, who can make time to train for a marathon or go to the gym five times a week? The good news is, exercise does not have to come in the form of an Ironman trophy. There are plenty of things you can do at the office, some of them even in your seat while you are on the phone. Here are some suggestions: It doesn’t take a costly gym membership or the time constraints of a daily gym outing. It just takes a commitment to your health and well-being!
Alternating between sitting and standing and exercising are both great for ergonomics. They keep your body and your mind rejuvenated and sharp. It is also important to factor in frequent breaks. Though it may seem counterintuitive, you can actually get more done when you take more breaks. OSHA advises that “High repetition tasks or jobs that require long periods of static posture may require several, short rest breaks (micro breaks or rest pauses). During these breaks users should be encouraged to stand, stretch, and move around. This provides rest and allows the muscles enough time to recover.” Stanford University research discovered that “even while seated, postural muscles are exerting tension to hold the mass of our upper body and head upright. Prolonged exertion can fatigue the muscles” and suggested “short breaks (~2 min) or performing other tasks (maximum of 30 minutes continuous computer use/repetitive lab task at any time)” and to “take microbreaks (approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute) every 10 minutes to rest the upper and lower extremities, back, neck, and eyes.” Even if you can’t take a break every 10 minutes, any break will bring benefit from sitting.
Ergonomic Solutions for Optimizing Desk Time
For many of us, the nature of our work requires desk time . . . and lots of it. Unless a career change is in your future, there is probably little hope of working fewer hours at a desk. Instead, there are ergonomic solutions that make your desk time healthy and empowering. A sit stand unit, anti-fatigue mat, and ergonomic chair, in addition to exercises and breaks will promote your circulation, increase your focus, and overall, improve both your efficiency and effectiveness while at your desk.
About Karen Burke
Karen is founder and president of Kare Products, specializing in active ergonomic solutions, products and office ergonomic consultations, since 1982.