Your desk is an important part of your day to day work life and the average adult will spend around 50 to 70 per cent of their day sitting at work. Over time this can end up having a negative effect on your joints and muscles, especially in your back and neck, but it also can cause shoulder pain, elbow pain and wrist pain. Having poor posture whilst at work can also be a common cause of headaches, and tennis elbow is also an effect of using a mouse extensively with poor arm alignment.
You may not think that sitting at your desk is a risky activity, especially compared to people working on construction sites, however the long term risks of having your workspace set up incorrectly can be quite significant. The NHS estimates that every four out of five UK workers have a desk job meaning that around 80 per cent of our population are potentially putting their bodies at risk.
Sitting incorrectly at a desk can lead to many health problems, some of which can be very serious, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Back problems have become one of the most common reasons for people visiting their GP and a lot of the time the reason for this is due to bad posture whilst sitting down. This of course not only causes you pain but also results in employee downtime which is why it is important that both employers and employees make sure that their desks are set up ergonomically to cause as little stress to the muscles and joints as possible.
Ergonomics is the study of how efficient people are in their working environment. When setting up your work environment it is important that it is set up to handle the way were meant to live as humans, obviously the human body wasn’t designed to sit for 8 or more hours, but they also aren’t meant to stand for that long either which is why it is all about balance and ensuring that you are using the correct equipment. At the end of the day you are already working hard enough so why put your body under any more strain.
Experts at Posture Team have put together some hints and tips to help you set your desk ergonomically.
1. Have the top of your monitor at eye level as this will prevent you from having to bend down or look up. Your head should always be balanced, and your screen should also be at arm’s length away from you.
2. When your desk is set up correctly your arms should be relaxed by your side whilst your forearms are parallel to the desk.
3. To avoid any strain being put on your spine, try putting something in between your back and the chair to provide lumbar support.
4. You should adjust your chair so that when using your keyboard your wrists and forearms are level with the floor. By doing this you can help prevent any repetitive strain injuries. Ergonomic chairs have been designed specifically to provide comfort and stability whilst sitting at a desk.
5. You should be able to place your feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest with your knees at a 90 degree angle. If you’re inclined to bend your knees, it results in you bending over the desk.
6. When using your keyboard it should be placed directly in front of you with a gap of about four to six inches between the edge of the desk and the keyboard to give you plenty of space to rest your wrists on. Your arms should be bent in an L position and your elbows should remain by your side. You may wish to use wrist supports as a lot of people find that this helps to keep their wrists straight.
7. When using a computer, you are likely to be using a mouse all day which if not done correctly can lead to some quite serious problems such as carpal tunnel, tendonitis and nerve damage. You should position the mouse as close to you as possible and avoid any awkward bending, a mouse mat with a wrist pad is a good way to avoid bending your wrists.
8. You should make sure that any other items that you use frequently are within easy reach such as the phone. Avoid any awkward stretching or twisting when trying to reach things.
9. If you find that your job requires you to spend a lot of your time on the phone, swap your handset for a headset. Repeatedly cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder can result in straining the muscles in your neck. Having a headset is also handy if you need to use the computer while on the phone as it frees up both hands.
As well as having your desk set up correctly, it is important that you take regular breaks to avoid sitting in the same position for too long. By taking frequent breaks, you are releasing some of the tension that your muscles have been holding whilst you were sitting down, giving your muscles chance to relax whilst other muscles take the strain.
Once you have set your desk up as we have outlined in the above points you should find that your body is under a lot less stress and therefore aches and pains should dramatically reduce, leaving you fit and ready to work to maximum efficiency.