Better Ergonomics No Matter Where You Work This Summer
The shift to hybrid and remote work over the last two years has opened up new possibilities—and presented new challenges. Connectivity and cybersecurity are paramount, of course, with employees learning how to navigate virtual private networks (VPNs) and password-protected Wi-Fi connections while IT administrators implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO) applications.
But productivity matters, too—and extends beyond simply how well your computer runs. Whether you’re planning to spend more time in the office this summer, work from home more often, or even work remotely from the road, it’s critical to pay attention to the ergonomic efficiency of your day-to-day setup.
What Is Ergonomics Anyway?
Defined as the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment, ergonomics has changed drastically over the last few years as millions of people across North America have changed the way they do their work. Instead of simply commuting to an office and sitting at the same desk all day staring at a desktop computer, many of us now work on our laptops while bouncing from the dining room table to the makeshift home office to the couch to the coffee shop—and sometimes even the car.
This kind of variety can be exhilarating at first, but working in different positions can actually exacerbate common ergonomic complaints. For most of us, standard issues include sore necks or backs (from hunching over a screen), achy wrists (from crowding our hands onto small laptop keyboards), cramped legs (from not standing up often enough), and tired eyes (from working too long without taking a break).
All of these ailments can usually be alleviated at least somewhat—by just spending a little time thinking about ergonomics. Even better, actively trying to reduce eye strain and fatigue can reduce and reverse the negative impacts of poor ergonomics that have built up over the years.
The goal is simple: a comfortable, relaxed posture and well-designed workspace can work wonders on our minds and bodies, boosting productivity and efficiency while making us feel better at the end of the day. An added bonus? You can avoid work-related injuries, which cost employers and businesses billions of dollars each year in lost wages, missed time, and even workers’ compensation claims.
Below are a few tips and tricks that CMIT Solutions has collected over the last 25 years and refined since 2020 when the way we work changed drastically:
1) Make sure your display is positioned properly. No matter how big or small your screen is, ideal positioning is important. This is best achieved by sitting in the desired position and holding your right arm out to see if your fingers point to the center of the screen. A couple of inches off in either direction—like sitting hunched over your laptop for hours—can quickly create neck pain. With laptops, you can change positioning with a stack of books to accommodate a natural forward gaze. Desktops and external monitors can often be adjusted, too, taking screen distance, screen glare, screen angle, and screen alignment into consideration.
2) If an extra monitor is feasible, take advantage of it. Not everyone has the luxury of connecting their laptop or desktop to an extra monitor—especially if you’re working from home or on the road. But if you do have a steady office space or regular desk location, the benefits of dual displays and extra monitors have been scientifically established: enhanced productivity, increased agility, and ease of navigation between large data sets or visual assets.
3) Pay attention to where your keyboard and mouse are located, too. This might seem silly—until you get it just right and realize how seamless day-to-day work can become. The ideal keyboard height is approximately two inches above the knees, but most of us have become all too familiar with propping our laptops up on our legs and struggling to adjust our posture to accommodate the cramped keys. Even most desks aren’t built that way—and let’s not even talk about the awkward positioning of dining room tables—leaving wrists and fingers in pain at the end of the day. If your desk is too high, try a sliding keyboard tray that slopes downward, allowing you to keep your wrists in a vertically neutral position. Split ergonomic keyboards can also alleviate pain and discomfort. Using a wireless keyboard and mouse can help, too; ergonomic experts say it’s best to place them where they are reachable without leaning forward. Check to see if your hands are straight and level, your elbows are comfortably tucked by your side, and your shoulders are relaxed to ensure proper positioning.
4) Use a real office chair if possible—and switch positions if you can. Our bodies aren’t optimized for sitting in a chair eight hours a day—not to mention on the couch or at the kitchen counter. If you can, use an office chair that has adjustable height settings and lumbar support that supports the upper and middle back. No matter what kind of chair you’re using, you should be able to sit comfortably in it with no compression of the thighs, your feet flat on the floor, and the seat should provide at least an inch of extra space around your hips and thighs. Standing desks are popular, as well, particularly if they move up or down (or offer adjustable heights) and give you the ability to switch positions every couple of hours. That keeps your body flexible and your mind engaged, as ergonomic experts have found that frequent movement is essential for good spinal health and mental cognition.
5) Move your smartphone up—and just out of reach. Is anything more indicative of our smartphone-obsessed age than seeing a crowd of people all hunched over the small screens of their devices? Ergonomically speaking, this is terrible for your posture though, as tilting your neck at such an angle significantly increases the weight of your head and the pressure on your spine. Try propping your phone up on your desk or a shelf so it’s near eye level—bonus points for keeping it just far enough out of reach so you can avoid checking it every few minutes.
Everybody—and every body—is different, making ergonomics a truly individual pursuit. But all of us should figure out how to work in relative comfort, whether it’s in the office, at home, or on the road. Luckily, technology and furniture can be adjusted to better accommodate different physical preferences. It can even pay off—ergonomic research conducted in the workplace has shown that investments and improvements can yield a 10-to-1 return.
When employees can do their jobs safely and comfortably, efficiency and productivity go up while burnout and physical pain go down. Isn’t that a win-win for everyone? If you want to know more about office ergonomics and how they can benefit your business, contact CMIT Solutions today. We have decades of experience deploying solutions and improvements for thousands of businesses across North America.
We’re ready to help your employees work smarter, not harder, in the office, at home, and on the road this summer.