Building an Ergonomic Workspace

April 26, 2023

I have been working from home 5 days/week for 3 years now, and I have to say that the first few months were an adjustment, especially on my workspace set up. I had to replace and change some aspects of my work area for it to become comfortable even if I work for hours in a day. I have now been successful in building up a productive routine that worked for me and I am still sticking to that up to this day. With all the experience that I have earned through this journey, I now have the knowledge on what the essentials are in building an effective work-from-home space.

Below are some of the steps that I did that I realized are essential, in creating comfortable and effective workspaces.

1. Choose a chair that fits your body well.

I believe this is the most essential one to consider. As someone who works a desk job and types away on a computer for hours, having a good chair is an essential tool to work from home effectively. I remember during the first few months of the pandemic, when I started doing WAH full time, I discovered that the wooden study chair that I was using for the longest time was bad for my back. During lunch time I would feel so tired already and would lie on my back on the bed (which was just inches away from the chair LOL) because my lower back was aching badly. That was the point when I knew that I needed to invest in an office chair. 

The first office chair that I got was from Mandaue Foam. It was a huge upgrade from my current one. However, after more than a year of daily usage, the cylinder was not functioning properly anymore (the seat was slowly going down even if I adjusted the height) and two of the wheels fell apart. I have DIY-ed fixes for both of these issues, which allowed me to use the chair for another few months. However, there came a point that I really had to replace the chair, or else use it and compromise my posture and sitting position.

And so I switched to another office chair. This time I got the Sihoo M57 (with footrest). I did a lot of research online and also asked around from friends on what their recommended office chairs were, and this brand and model always came up being mentioned. Sihoo is a brand from China, and despite that, it was accessible here in the country through its official distributor Things We Use (TWU). I connected with them through their Facebook page, and just within hours, the chair was delivered to my doorstep. By lunch time that day, I was already taking work calls while seated on the chair.

Since a number of aspects were adjustable on the chair (i.e. arm rest, seat height, lumbar back support, head rest) I had to spend some time searching for that "sweet spot" that worked for me. Once I figured it out, it was all smooth sailing for them. The reviews I got from my friends were true. I especially like the good back support that this chair gives me. Working hours have definitely become less physically stressful for me.

2. Adjust the chair height relative to the height of the desk.

It is essential to have the correct arms posture in your workspace. From what I have learned from my ergonomics evaluation, the forearm should be on a flat angle relative to the typing surface so that your wrists are relaxed when typing away on the keyboard and when operating the mouse. For this to be possible in my workspace, I adjusted my arm rest height to achieve the desired angle.

3. Position the monitors so that the middle part is in line with your eye level. 

This is another thing that I learned from my ergonomic evaluation. The monitor height is important to reduce neck tension.

4.  Modify your seating position such that there is space behind your knee joint and the chair (preferably palm-width length).

Seating in this position will prevent pressure on the knees. This is especially critical if you have knee issues.

5. Have a foot rest and position it such that your foot is planted on a 90-degree angle relative to the leg.

Initially, I thought the foot rest was not necessary because I can just get a box to put my feet on, right? How very wrong I was. For months, I came up with different methods to adjust my feet, but it all ended up hurting my knees more. Probably I was choosing the wrong devices, but in case you really want to DIY your foot rest, I recommend building one wherein you can rest your foot at an angle, so that you can follow the 90 degree guideline correctly. 

For me, I later on realized that this is something I cannot DIY so I bought a foot rest online, from TWU again actually. I'm using it with the flat side on top and rested it against the wall so I could adjust the angle. It has been working well for me and I am not feeling any knee pain even after hours of working.  But of course, I still do quick breaks in between via the Pomodoro method. 🍅

These guidelines might seem common sense, but sometimes our bodies are just built differently so certain setups would not work for everyone. If your company offers ergonomic evaluation of your workspace at home, please do avail them. It has proved to be beneficial for me. I was able to receive personalized advice for my workspace. A seemingly minor adjustment with my setup was able to drastically change my comfort level. I'm sure it will do the same for you. Happy working (from home!) 😁💻

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