So far in this series, I’ve considered many things, all to do with awareness and the way we use ourselves – our body, mind, and breath – so we can optimize our productivity and comfort, not to mention the confidence we project to ourselves and others, as we work at our computers. What I’ve not yet considered, is the arrangement of our workstation. For me this is absolutely secondary to the way we “arrange” ourselves. Even the best ergonomic set up won’t be of any help, if we don’t use our body well within it!
When we use body intelligence, we can cope well even with poor arrangements when we work at the computer, or in any situation. Having said that, we can set up our workstation, and especially our chair, to support us better, in a way that is more likely to encourage an easy upright, open and expansive posture.
Most office chairs are not very helpful in encouraging this. They are often the wrong height, tip us backward (inviting us to slump), have arms that get in the way of free arm movement, not to mention a curved back, uncomfortable “lumbar support,” and a head rest that pushes your head forward….
Here’s a better way to set up your chair:
Raise the height of your chair so your hips are a little higher than your knees, making sure the seat is level or even slightly sloped forward. This not only helps you rest on your sit bones, but allows the legs to drape down so the feet can rest easily on the floor. Simply making this one change made a huge difference to one of my clients with hip problems.
You may be able to adjust your office chair to do this, but you don’t have to have a special chair. You can even use a couple of old phone books,
or cushions. Here I’m using a special wedge type cushion, which can be especially effective if you have a chair that tips you back.
In the past I experimented with this “sitting disc” – which raises the height of the seat, while giving a bit of movement similar to sitting on a posture ball.
Or you can even get rid of your chair completely! Alexander Technique teacher Robert Rickover uses (and recommends) a stool about 1 1/2 times as high as a regular chair! Personally I found this a little too high, and recently my preference is for this stool from IKEA:
Position your screen so the top of it is more or less level with your eyes. Often our screen is much lower, so if we don’t pay attention we’ll likely to be curling up our back and jutting out our head to look at it. And if it’s too high, we end up craning our neck to see it too. Of course with laptops it is not possible to change the height (unless you dock it, and use a separate keyboard, of course), so look out for my next post in which I’ll discuss more specifically how to cope best with your laptop!
When positioning your screen, also make sure it is directly in front of you as you work. There’s nothing worse than having to constantly twist just to look at the screen.
Keyboard and Mouse
Make sure your keyboard and mouse are within comfortable reach for your arms and hands – not so far away that you have to stretch out just to type, but not so close that you end up curling yourself inwards to reach it. And, like the screen, these should be directly in front of you for ease of use. It’s also helpful if the keyboard and mouse are positioned so your forearms are roughly at right angles to the upper arms.
Anything you use frequently should be within easy reach, so you don’t have to stretch or twist awkwardly just to grab a pen, for instance. On the other hand, to encourage yourself to get up and move occasionally, items you use more rarely could be placed far enough away that you actually have to get out of your seat to get them!
Sometimes simple adjustments make a big difference. What can you easily change in your set-up? Do you have any specific challenges with your chair or desk?
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comment in the space below.
Next week I’ll be specifically sharing advice for anyone with a laptop, as well as alternatives to sitting at a desk, including standing to work.
Top image courtesy of KEKO64 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.