Down the rabbithole

ekov @ pm.me

A more ergonomic workspace, step by step

We spend a lot of time sitting at our desks. This is not too healthy: we don’t get enough fresh air, don’t move enough, and, quite often, don’t pay enough attention to our joints and muscles.

Take an ergonomic self-assessment. Can you answer most questions with ‘Yes’?

If so, go do something else, get some fresh air, thanks for reading my blog!

If not, here are a few tips to improve your workspace, from practically free, to invest-in-your-health level. I’m not an ergonomics expert, just trying to maintain an ok-ish workspace – so please let me know if anything needs correction.

The basics *

1. Sit (or stand) at a desk *

I’m guilty – lying on the couch, melting into a deep sofa[1], or on your belly on the carpet. These are all very bad for posture, and might lead to problems with your joints.

If something hurts, the first step is to sit or stand at a desk (or a table, at least.)

$: kitchen table
$$: common desk from IKEA or similar
$$$: sit/stand desk

2. Look straight ahead *

Screen height should be at eye level[2], so it’s less strain on your eyes, and you can keep a straight neck and back. Make sure it’s not too high though, or your eyes will dry out.

$: large books or thin boxes you already have at home - just put your laptop on top
$$: laptop stand
$$$: monitor(s)

Elevating a laptop to eye level will require an external keyboard and mouse.
What you use should depend on whether you have (or are actively seeking to avoid) problems with your wrists, or nah.

Option A: ‘my wrists are fine’

$: whatever keyboard or mouse you already have at home, or can find for cheap
$$: mechanical keyboard, proper mouse (apparently this is a thing - reddit)
$$$: custom mechanical keyboard, for the fun!

Option B: my wrists are not fine :(

See at Wrists.

Level up: do you have a specific issue? *

For me, it’s the wrists. I can sit in any weird position or the most uncomfortable chair all day and my back will be fine, but one day without a proper keyboard and trackball, and my wrists start aching.

For others, they can pound away on Macbook Pros all day, but give them the wrong chair and they’ll have back pain within a few hours.

Wrists *

First of all, make sure you’re maintaining correct posture. It might not seem related, but posture makes all the difference!

You can also consider getting a (split ergo) mechanical keyboard. The split/ergo part is somewhat optional, but definitely get a mechanical one. Also, get a trackball[3].

$: no truly budget option I’m afraid – try to get your employer to buy you one
$$: some simple keeb[4] with proper switches
$$$: custom split ergo boards

Lower back *

Invest in a chair that’s adjustable and has proper lumbar support. The various budget options will go from least to most effective, so if you already have problems, you really should put some money here.

$: second-hand gaming chair. I once found one for £7 at a charity shop[5]
$$: basic office chair from Office Depot, IKEA & co.
$$$: full-support, everything adjustable, 5-star reviews

Overweight, or hip problems *

Could be too much sitting. Get a standing desk.

$: big, big box on top of your existing desk, your stuff on top of that
$$: a small standing desk extension that goes on top of your existing desk
$$$: adjustable-height sit/stand desk

Skills and lifestyle *

There are some things you can do that are not directly related to your workspace setup, but will greatly affect the health of a life spent at a desk.

1. Move *

Do some exercise, mostly stuff that’s easy on your joints. Swimming and long walks are both great. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just make sure it’s regular.

Also make sure that you take regular breaks and step away from your desk every once in a while. Getting a glass of water is the perfect excuse.

2. Learn touch typing *

Great, you’re working with a straight back and looking ahead at eye level. Now it’s time to keep your eyes on the screen (but don’t forget to look away occasionally!)

Touch typing is super useful to learn, because it makes you write faster, reduces cognitive load, and it’s good for your posture. TypingClub is a great place to learn.

🖥️

I’m no expert to ergonomics, just an enthusiast, so please let me know[6] if you have any corrections or suggestions. Keep healthy, drink water, eat plants.


  1. An excellent way to awaken your RSI. ↩︎

  2. To be more exact, the top 1/3 of your screen should be exactly at the same level as your eyes. ↩︎

  3. Logitech makes some inexpensive trackballs, I’m using a M570 myself. ↩︎

  4. Could be an entry-level mechanical gaming keyboard with Cherry MX switches (e.g. Corsair), or some other brands to check out: Anne Pro, Filco, Leopold, Varmilo, Vortex etc. ↩︎

  5. and held on to it like my life depended on it, until my bf arrived with the cash I didn’t have on me! ↩︎

  6. ekov @ pm.me, without the spaces. ↩︎

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