For the large population who work a desk job, it is extremely important to set up your workstation in the most ergonomic way possible. Reduce the damage of sitting for the vast majority of the day by learning how to adjust your chair and set up your desk.
Regardless of the amount of money you invest in an ergonomic chair if you don’t know how to adjust and use it for the benefit of your body then you could be doing more damage than good.
With the right chair you can customize just about everything form the seat depth, armrest height, recline, lower back support and height to name a few. In the following post I’m going to delve into the ways one can adjust their chair and the most ergonomic options.
A small disclaimer here – if you have thrown or misplaced your instruction manual, try to find the online version to familiarise yourself with the product. If not, try not to force anything listed below as you may break the chair!
Best way to Sit at a Computer/Workstation
There are many studies done that shows the detrimental effects of being seated all day. There are also reports about how with the right chair and correct set up you can reduce musculoskeletal symptoms associated with prolonged sitting.
While there is no one way to sit at your desk the key thing is finding good supported postures that can be changed throughout the day. If you are struggling with lower back pain and are looking for quick yet effective support, I highly recommend a back brace. A somewhat inexpensive product that can provide a great sense of relief.
The idea of correct seated postures is important as they will reduce fatigue and strain on the neck, shoulders, back and even legs. Everyone finds different postures work for them so I can’t recommend just the one but let’s take a look at the ergonomic guidelines.
A seated posture that is well supported includes the following:
- Sit with your body close to the desk
- Head and neck should be in midline position (No arching of the neck and no forward extension of the chin)
- Relaxed, even shoulders
- Elbows tucked closely to the body
- Back supported by a backrest
- An open angle of 100-120 degrees at the hip (a little more than a right angle – so you need the hips to be higher than the knees)
- A gap of 2-3 fingers wide between the back of the knees and front of the chair
- Feet flat on the ground or a footrest
If that seems like a lot of instructions never fear – many of these adjustments can be easily made with the chair itself.
Adjust the Seat Height
Even the most basic chair models have an adjustable height lever. As a rule of thumb stand in front of the chair with the seat facing you. Your kneecaps should be just above the seated part of the chair, this is generally the right height. However, as mentioned the feet need to be completely flat on the ground too and your knees slightly below the hip (100-120degree open angle from the hips). If your feet cannot reach the ground then it’s important to invest in a footrest as well.
There will be times where you behind may start to go to sleep due to the pressure, this can and should be taken as a sign to get up and go for a short walk. Studies show that walking for 10mins after sitting for prolonged periods can restore the vascular system! Another little hot tip – drink plenty of fluids through the day so you HAVE to get up and walk to use the bathroom frequently.
Adjust the Seat Depth
This feature is generally only found in the higher end chairs, this allows the user to bring the back rest closer or further away. You need to have 2-3 fingers width between the end of the chair and your knees so adjust until you find this distance. If the front of the chair is hitting your knees then you’ll need to adjust the seat depth accordingly. The same goes for the opposite if you’re seated and no where near the backrest then bring it in closer.
Adjust the Lumbar Support
Not every chair includes a lumbar support – if this is the case I recommend (once again) a back brace! This support is especially important for those who suffer from lower back pain. If your chair does have a back support then great! This should fit into the natural curve of the spine so slide it around until you find the sweet spot. You may need help from a colleague for this one. It shouldn’t be causing any pain so if the support is digging in make sure you release it. They tend to be made from plastic so they can be a little uncomfortable.
Adjust the Handrests
There’s a bit of debate about office chairs and handrests but if your chair has them then they can be adjusted. The ideal position is with the elbows tucked closely to the body, this allows for the shoulders to remain relaxed and upright as opposed to slouching forward.
Armrests were initially thought to be bad as they can prevent the user from getting close to the workstation. Armrests that cannot be lowered or lifted and are stopping you from getting close to the desk should be removed. If they do slide under or over the desk then keep using them as they give you a place to rest your arms and relieve the load on the shoulders and neck.
Get Up & Walk!
The most effective way to prevent and restore the damage caused by sitting is to get up and walk around. I mentioned keeping your fluids up so you have to walk to the bathroom frequently but other people use reminders on their computers. A few minutes every hour to get the blood pumping is important. Not to mention it does wonders for your focus and concentration.
If you spend excessive amounts of time in one position the body will fatigue which can then lead to sprains and strains. Studies also show it is better to take regular short breaks than one long one as well. So set a reminder on your phone or computer to move every hour and do it!
In addition to this the size and shape of your office desk also comes into effect. There are many ergonomically designed workstations that are optimised for this. I have included quite a number of these desks in my article about the best gaming desks which are also very relevant to the office users.
When it comes to the health and well being of your body, choosing and adjustable office chair is important! There are a few key adjustments that need to be made for ergonomic workstations and these include the seat height, seat depth, lumbar support and handrests. However, even with the best office chair the effect of sitting for extended periods is incredibly damaging. The best thing anyone can do is to get up and walk around for a few minutes at least every hour.