Eight hours a day, five days a week – we all know what it’s like to feel tied to our desk. Considering we often spend more time at work than we do with our own family, how we feel at our desk has a huge influence on our day.

The build and set up of a workstation can make a real difference – better workflows, better ergonomics and better toolsets can prevent physical and emotional issues. It’s surprising how a few small changes can have a dramatic effect on employee productivity, mental health, and physical well-being.

Every workplace (and workstation) is different, but there are a few common denominators that should be considered across the board.

Me, myself, and my workstation

Let’s pause for a moment and focus on you. Most likely you’re at your desk right now. Think about your body. Any aches? Perhaps in the neck, shoulders, or wrists? Melt away discomfort with these easy ergonomic tricks:

  • Imagine how you sit in a car – knees level with hips, shoulders upright and your backside sticking out slightly. This is close to your body’s natural pose, forming your lumbar spine into slight ‘S’.
  • Reach out and touch your screen with your fingertips – any closer or further away and you run the risk of eyestrain.
  • The top of your desk should be roughly level with your elbows so that you’re not hunching to reach up or down to the keyboard and mouse.
  • Keep the phone within arm’s reach. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, consider investing in a headset to save crunching your neck.
  • Keep the monitor at eye level so you’re not craning your neck downwards. (Hint – close your eyes, when you open them they should fall on the address bar in your browser.)

Tension points

While these ergonomic principles will go a long way towards easing the work day, there are ways to adapt office-wide furniture situations to cater for individual needs – all with the benefit of boosting productivity.

For example, recent studies have shown that having multiple monitors can dramatically boost productivity by streamlining workflow and processes – showing that multi-screen arrays are no longer the domain of programmers and filmmakers. An ergonomically sound multi-screen setup can help any employee work across multiple programs, track email and documents, monitor data flows, and transcribe or check information. With the cost of flat-screen monitors continually dropping, this can be a surprisingly low-cost way to increase productivity.

Another thing to consider when it comes to monitors is eye strain. In the same way that Apple’s iOS now automatically shifts to ‘night mode’ after a certain time of night, many computer monitors have settings that reduce blue light emissions. Look for monitors with a range of settings for different situations, so employees can set the brightness and light type for their own comfort. One thing to note here is the tendency of workers to sit down at a desk and accept their computer’s settings as they are. Make sure everyone is aware of the options available, and encourage them to make changes to settings, positioning and format to suit their needs.

Foot rests, ergonomic mouse devices, screen stands and standing desks, while perhaps once considered a luxury, are fast becoming the norm. These ease pressure on the back, neck, wrist, and anything that can enable staff to keep focus for longer and perform more effectively pays for itself in the long run.

A lot of people are increasingly focused on wellness, and sitting has been widely denigrated as ‘the new smoking’: bad for your back, bad for your heart, and bad for your life expectancy. Offering staff members the option of a standing desk will not only help them focus and keep them well, they will appreciate the gesture of concern for their wellbeing.

To summarize, a carefully designed workstation pays for itself many times over in productivity and efficiency, so ensure you put the time in during the planning stage to get the most from your investment.