7 ways to improve your workstation ergonomics

Has the global pandemic prompted a new dawn of workplace flexibility? More of us might be working from the comfort of our own homes in the longer term. But hours of slouching at your kitchen benchtop or dining table is not doing your body or productivity levels any favours.

To ensure you stay pain-free and working well, tick off Physiotherapist Claire Dingle and Chiropractor Dr Sean Laurie’s ergonomic check-list:

1. Correct your set up
How you set up your workspace is key. If you’re lucky enough to have a height-adjustable desk and desk chair, they should be set so your knees, kips and back are at 90-degree angles when you sit or stand.

Set up your computer so the top third of your screen is at eye level. ‘This will prevent you from looking too high or too low, straining your neck,’ says Dr Dingle. 

And don’t forget to place your mouse and keyboard close to your body, so you aren’t reaching too far to use them. Pro tip: invest in a wireless keyboard and mouse. 

2. Perfect your posture
‘Part of the problem with sitting too long is that it’s a position that shortens your hip flexors and puts pressure on your lumbar spine,’ says Dr Laurie.

Placing a rolled up towel on your chair can also help to bring your hips a little higher that your knees, suggests Dr Laurie. But if you feel like you’re being pushed forward while seated, the towel is too high.

You’ll find a video demo by Dr Laurie on his Instagram page.

Maintain a neutral position by placing your feet flat on the ground or on a footrest, tucking your chin in and bringing your head into alignment with your shoulders, adds Dr Dingle. 

‘Avoid slouching during your Zoom meetings – imagine a helium balloon is pulling you up from above,’ she says.  

3. Find ways to keep moving
Whether it’s a strength session in your backyard or a run during your lunch break, exercise helps to strengthen your neck, shoulders, back and abdominal muscles, while aiding flexibility. This in turn supports good posture.

But getting more movement into your day doesn’t necessarily need to include organised training sessions. Whether it’s refilling your glass of water, stretching, or dancing around the house to your favourite golden oldie, finding ways to move your body on the reg has a host of benefits. 

Dr Dingle recommends getting up and moving around the room every 20 to 30 minutes to avoid causing stiffness in your joints.

Dr Laurie agrees, adding that even the most perfect posture will still overwork your muscle if held too long. ‘Take the view of your best posture is your next posture,’ he says.

Moving often (even something as simple as slouching into a quick upper back stretch) alleviates the stress on your muscles. It will also increase alertness, with research suggesting that up to 90 per cent of your brain stimulation comes from spinal movement.

4. Stretch
Perform stretches that oppose the position you were sitting in, such as elbow extensions, knee extensions, neck stretches and wrist rotations.

Experiencing pain in your lower back and hips? Try performing a lunging hip-flexor stretch, says Dr Laurie. There’s a demo here.

Sitting for long periods of time at a desk can cause tightness in your pecs, so pec stretches are also useful.

‘Open your chest by placing your arm on the side of a door frame at a 90-degree angle, pushing through your chest and breathing out so that you don’t hold in your tension,’ says Dr Laurie.

5. Invest in headphones
If you’re guilty of holding your phone between your head and shoulder while you type notes as you talk, you’re likely to end up with a pain in your neck. Use earphones for long chats with clients, suggests Dr Dingle.  

6. Breathe!
Who knew that concentrated breath could help your workflow and keep your body feeling fit. 

‘To avoid tension building in your neck and upper shoulder muscles, take three deep breaths into your diaphragm and belly every 20 to 30 minutes. While doing so, soften your shoulders and draw your shoulder blades back and down,’ says Dr Dingle. 

7. Set a routine
Maintaining a consistent routine will help you with all of the above. Schedule your meal breaks, workouts and daily dose of fresh air into your work calendar. 

In need of some new equipment to reorganise your workstation? You’ll can find some cool home office essentials available at Twelve South

Keto super powder
About Angelique Tagaroulias 18 Articles
Angelique Tagaroulias is a communications professional with background in magazine journalism, content creation, PR and marketing. She moved from the sunny East Coast to Melbourne to pursue her dreams, where she now combines her main loves: health, fitness and wellbeing, and creating engaging content.