Aching back, stiff neck, frequent headaches, wrist pain, eye strain, sore feet, swollen ankles, drained energy: these are just a few of the physical problems you can suffer when your work environment is working against you. Try these easy changes — the first 5 are for sitting work, the next 3 for standing work, the last 2 for everybody.
1. Check your chair height.
When you sit at your desk with your hands on the keyboard, your forearms and thighs should be parallel to the floor. If the chair is too high and feet are left dangling, the pressure on your thighs will cut off circulation to your legs. Too low, and you'll end up with wrist and neck strain. If adjusting the chair to proper keyboard level makes it too high for your feet, use a small stool.
2. Check your chair depth.
You should be able to sit all the way back so that the chair back supports your spine, and still have at least 4" of space between the front edge of the seat and your calves. If the chair seat is too deep, use a lumbar pillow.
3. Check your monitor level.
The top of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye level, and tilted up 10 to 20 degrees. This allows you to hold your head at a natural angle, preventing muscle fatigue in your neck and shoulders. If you're working on a laptop, put it on a stand.
4. Check your screen viewability.
Adjust the brightness and contrast. Position the monitor so that you are not facing into a window or other bright light source as you work. Overhead lights can also cause glare and reflections; shade them or counteract them with a desk lamp.
5. Try a typing or mousing helper.
There are many keyboards, mice, wrist rests, etc., on the market that help prevent or treat carpal tunnel syndrome. If they're too pricey, at least consider padding the sharp edge of the desk where your mousing arm rests.
6. Get the right shoes for standing.
The athletic shoes you wear for basketball aren't good for a day of standing and walking: they're engineered for different types of motion. Get shoes specific to the activity you engage in at work. Ladies, no heels higher than 2".
7. Check how you stand.
Studies show that you use less energy keeping your balance if you stand with one foot slightly forward. You can also relieve tired feet by shifting your weight frequently. Even better, place one foot on a footrest.
8. Check where you stand.
Hard concrete or tile floors can cause foot problems that eventually lead to knee, hip and spine problems. Stand on an anti-fatigue mat, or even a piece of carpet (as long as it's not a slipping or tripping hazard).
9. Don't slouch.
Whether you're sitting or standing, poor posture is almost guaranteed to give you a stiff neck, sore lower back and/or headache.
10. Break it up.
Sitting in the same position or repeating the same motion for long stretches is a recipe for injury. If you're a desk jockey, get up and walk around every hour or so. If you're on your feet all day, take your breaks sitting down, preferably with legs elevated.