We get it, when working from home it can be tempting to plop down on the couch with your laptop, kick your legs up, hunch over your laptop, and not move for hours on end. However, this is an ergonomic nightmare. Haven’t heard the word ergonomics? Ergonomics refers to the study of optimizing how people work. Not only do ergonomic setups help boost your productivity and allow you to get your work done more efficiently, but ergonomically designed spaces are also beneficial for your systemic health and wellbeing. When you feel better, you perform better in all aspects of your life and that’s a win for everyone.
Let’s run through the basics of designing an ergonomic work set up. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and you can optimize your workspace using mostly items that you already have.
First, designate the couch and any other lounge chairs as off limits during work hours.
Second, make sure your body alignment is correct. This starts with proper posture while sitting or standing at your desk. But it doesn’t end here—you’ll want to pay attention to the height and angle of your computer, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. We’ll get more into that below.
Third, make sure you’re getting up to move hourly. If you sit all day, your hip muscles, glutes, and core muscles can become weak due to lack of use. Prolonged sitting will also progressively make your hip flexors extremely tight. We recommend sending a timer to go off 5 minutes before the end of the hour as a reminder to move. When the alarm goes off, step away from your computer and walk around for a minute or two, do some stretches, and drink some water—bonus points if you add electrolytes! Studies have demonstrated that quick regular breaks can support problem solving, idea generation, and creative thinking.
Here are 10 more tips for setting up an ergonomic workspace.
- Position your computer screen at or slightly below eye level allowing your head to remain in a neutral position and to prevent you from having to tilt or crane your neck. A good rule of thumb is that the search bar on your internet browser should be aligned with your eyes. Resist staring down at your cell phone often as that may lead to neck pain.
- When you’re sitting down at your desk, your hips should be less than 90 degrees of flexion, meaning your knees should be slightly below hips. Prolonged hip flexion can create hip flexor tightness and rounding of the lower back. Make sure to try these five exercises that help reverse the impact of sitting. All you’ll need is a Long Looped Resistance Band and a Door Anchor.
- Relax your knees! If you’re sitting, the back of your knees shouldn’t be compressed against the chair. Gripping the chair with your knees can lead to lower back pain, improper neck alignment, and of course knee pain and stiffness.
- Plant your feet on the floor. This one is pretty straight forward. No matter your height, make sure that your chair and desk are set up so that your feet are grounded on the floor. Not only are you more likely to lose focus if you’re swinging your legs, but this also causes your pelvis to tip backwards and forces your abdominal muscles to go into overdrive. If your current setup doesn’t allow your feet to touch the ground, consider using a foot rest.
- Hold your lower and upper back should be in an upright position. Neck, upper shoulder, and lower back tightness occur for many reasons but one of the most common, and growing, reasons is due to bad posture. Slouching causes your neck and shoulders to move too far forward and puts excess pressure on your spine. Doing this for hours a day can create sweeping postural changes in your body over the course of months or years. Check out our three favorite exercises to improve your posture.
- In a similar way that you want your head in a neutral position, you also want your forearms, hands and wrists in one as well. Your forearms, hands, and wrists should lay flat against the table—you want to prevent them from hinging, whether they are concaving or convexing. Your keyboard and mouse should be at elbow height. This will prevent hand and wrist cramps, carpal tunnel, as well as the postural issues that improper alignment of the arms can contribute to.
- If you’re working at a standing desk, be cognizant of weight distribution and make sure you are not leaning towards one hip or leg for prolonged periods of time. You may also benefit from wearing supportive shoes if you’re standing for a long time. If possible, alternate sitting and standing throughout the day because standing for the whole day can lead to swelling in your ankles and calves, leg and foot pain, and varicose veins.
- Keep nutrient dense snacks and beverages on hand. Even if you’re not moving much during the day, your body needs water. We recommend aiming to drink at least ½ your bodyweight in ounces of water per day. Use the Big Tom to keep you on track—and to keep your water ice cold all day. Make sure you are fueling regularly and incorporate energizing and cognitive boosting foods into your diet. If you just have a few minutes between meetings, try blending up our Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Smoothie, loaded with protein and micronutrients.
- Start the day with fresh air and movement. Everyone has their own preferences about when they workout, but at TB12 we recommend starting your day with some sort of movement—it doesn’t have to be long and doesn’t have to be intense. If you’re staring at the computer all day, taking a walk in the morning is a great way to help counteract eye strain that comes from screen exposure. When you walk, keep your gaze forward so that your eyes are focusing on things 20 feet away or more.
- Begin and end your day with pliability work. Counteract the effects of prolonged sitting by lengthening the muscles that typically get tight using a TB12 Vibrating Pliability Sphere or TB12 Vibrating Pliability Roller. Taking a few minutes a day to roll out muscle groups such as your quads, glutes, lower back, chest and lats can help drastically decrease tightness and improve proper posture. Check out these pliability exercises designed to target muscles commonly impacted by prolonged sitting or standing.
Your workdays don’t need to leave you lethargic, drained, and in pain. You can create positive changes when you improve your tissues' pliability through postural changes, proper hydration, improved nutritional habits, and self-pliability.