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Over the course of the past two years, desks and work stations have been a hot topic as many of us switched from offices to working from home, and then back again.
Now that things have more or less settled down, the time for temporary setups has officially come and gone. Whether you're working from a newly-minted from your home office or have headed back to a corporate office full time, ensuring that you have access to a supportive and ergonomic work area has never been more important.
Prioritizing a well-functioning desk environment with things like an ergonomic chair and proper screens can make all the difference between pain and wellness, as I've come to learn after chatting with Rachel Mitchell, a Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist and consultant at Ergo Inc. Ahead, you can read on to get her top tips for improving your desk setup, too.
Say goodbye to laptops as you know them
According to Mitchell, we've been using laptops wrong this whole time. Rather than typing away at a laptop for eight hours a day, she says it's time to rethink how we work with them.
"Laptops are designed to be used as laptops in transit, but not for any kind of permanent workstation. [For] any permanent workstation, they need to be docked," Mitchell told Yahoo Canada.
If you do use a laptop full-time, Mitchell recommends making some changes that can help preserve your long-term health. That means investing in an external keyboard and mouse, which can help prevent the typical hunched posture that often comes with using a laptop long-term, as well as a riser or laptop stand.
Adjust your screen height
Another way to adjust your work station, regardless of whether you're using a laptop or a desktop computer and your monitor is to make sure that your screen is at the right height for your frame.
Since that height differs depending on how tall or petite you may be, an easy way to arrange your monitor is to aim to have the top of the screen at your eye level, according to Mitchell.
"If you don’t want to invest in a laptop stand, then an Amazon box, a stack of Harry Potter novels — all work great as risers," she says.
Show your back some support
Early on in the days of working from home, many of us could be found working at our dining room table, couch, or even from bed. However, if you haven't done so already, now is the time to upgrade to a more supportive ergonomic chair.
"If you sit in a dining room chair now — even though it’s temporary — you’re putting a lot of strain on your low back," Mitchell says. "We spend 40 hours a week in this chair, it’s something that people should really invest in because low back pain is probably the most common pain that people start to experience."
Mitchell says that ideally, you want to look for a chair with low back support, as well as features like adjustable height, armrests, and recline that can be changed throughout the day.
In terms of height, you want a chair that allows you to comfortably rest your arms at a 90-degree angle as you type. To reach this height and not have your legs dangling above the floor, those who are petite may also want to place a pillow or footrest under their feet for added stability and comfort.
Don't forget to switch things up
While it may feel like you're chained to your desk during working hours, Mitchell recommend that you do get up and take a break for both your physical and mental health.
Whether you choose to step away for a quick walk around the block, use a standing desk, or just move from one location to another, it's an easy way to invest in your long term health.
To shop a selection of desk essentials, scroll through for the items that can help create a more ergonomically-friendly work space at home or in the office.