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How To Make Ergonomic Improvements To Your Existing Workstation

Ergonomic tips for every setup


There has been a lot of hype about sit-stand desks, lately, and rightly so. They really are 'all that'. You may want to jump on the sit-stand bandwagon but are worried about the budget requirements that this retrofitting project might have. Worry not - there are plenty of ergonomic improvements you can make that will support your posture, ease your achy neck and shoulders, and keep you more focused and productive – all without bankrupting your business’ bank account.

Here are a few tips for making effective ergonomic improvements to your existing workstation:

Optimizing an existing workstation: everything on one desk

Here are some tips for setups where the keyboard, mouse, and monitor are all on the same surface:

  • Make sure the keyboard and mouse are parallel with the front edge of the desk, and the keyboard feet are flat
  • Adjust chair height so that elbows are level with wrists
  • Lower (or completely remove) the arms of the chair so that you can get closer to the edge of the desk
  • If your chair does not adjust high enough for you to sit comfortably with relaxed shoulders at a standard height desk (many do not), it is definitely time for a different chair
  • Support your feet on a footrest (or reams of paper) until your knees and hips are level
  • Raise your monitor on phone books (or again…on reams of paper) so that your eyes meet the top 1/3 of the screen (2-3” lower if you wear glasses), and so that your head is level and even with your shoulders
  • Bring the monitor closer if you find yourself leaning forward throughout the day
  • Get a gel wrist rest for your keyboard and mouse to keep your wrists off the edge of the desk
Optimizing an existing workstation with a tray

Consider adding a height-adjustable keyboard tray to your standard desk to relax your shoulders and keep your posture even.

  • Make sure your mouse is placed next to your keyboard (not in front of it)
  • Adjust your chair so your feet are flat on the floor
  • Place your monitor centered with keyboard
  • If you use dual monitors, get screens that are the same size and height, and place them next to each other for easiest eye movement
Sit-only beside stand-only

Another option is to create two work surfaces beside each other – one for sitting and one for standing. A cost-effective method is to use a countertop or elevate a regular desk on bricks or risers. Some people also opt for a standard height tabletop, but then they use paper reams (again...they sure do come in handy!) and sturdy boxes to elevate monitors and peripherals.

Whichever setup you choose, follow these tips to maintain a healthy posture:

  • Ensure that the standing surface allows wrists and elbows to be level, head to be upright, and shoulders to stay relaxed
  • Have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse at each station or move them as you change between them
  • If you are using a laptop, you will need to raise it to ease neck position when standing
Sit-stand tabletop units

You can get all the benefits of a sit-stand desk without the heavy investment if you opt for a tabletop sit-stand unit. This will attach to your existing workstation and enable you to sit and stand as needed. Keep in mind that a unit that is attached to the front of a table will not work with a pencil drawer. Opt for a tray that is larger for stable keyboard and mouse support, and consider adding a shelf to store paperwork, tools, and your phone. 

Ergonomics for every setup

Whichever way you choose to set up your workstation, and even if/when you do invest in a fully automated sit-stand desk, remember to take frequent breaks to stretch, move, and walk around, and keep yourself hydrated during the day. 'Ergonomic' is not just an adjective for furniture. It is a description for a way of life that fosters your health and well-being.