Workplace ergonomics: six tips for a healthy hot desk

Business person standing at office desk, working, writing into a personal organizer against brick wall. Computer on the table. Smart phone, coffee cup and various office stuff around the workplace. Rear view.

Few trends have transformed the office quite like the advent of mobile work practices.

Gone are the days of desktop computers and landlines – armed with a laptop and a smartphone, employees can set up a workstation almost anywhere; a meeting room in the office, the local cafe, or their kitchen table.

While more companies are embracing the concept of hot-desking and flexible working to reduce costs and improve staff productivity, the fact that we can work anywhere doesn’t necessarily mean we should.

Without a permanent set up, workspace ergonomics can easily fall by the wayside, and poorly adjusted chairs and badly positioned monitors can lead to energy slumps and back pain, as well as long-term musculoskeletal damage if left uncorrected.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to an ergonomically efficient workstation, but there are some general rules you can apply whether you work from home or in an office, sitting or standing.

1. Make sure you have a desk, chair and proper lighting

If you are working from home, resist the temptation to park up on the sofa.

You really are doing yourself a world of damage – straining your neck, putting pressure on your lower back, and winding up your nervous system. Set yourself up with a desk, a chair and make sure the area is well lit so you don’t strain your eyes.

2. Get the height right

If you are sitting, your feet should be flat on the floor with your knees positioned at 90 degrees, either parallel to or slightly below your hips. Sit right towards the back of the chair, as this makes it more difficult to slouch. Elbows should be by your side and at 90 degrees on the armrest of your chair or resting comfortably on the desk and shoulders completely relaxed.

If you are standing, adjust your desk to reach elbow height so that you can rest your forearms on the desk. Make sure you have equal weight distribution across both feet and keep your knees soft – don’t lock them out. Hips should be in alignment with ankles so that you aren’t hip hitching (shifting weight from one hip to another) or pushing your pelvis forward.

3. Adjust your screen position

The general rule of thumb is that your screen should be positioned about an arm’s length away. Make sure your eye line is level with the top third of the monitor, and try to keep your head right on top of your shoulders to maintain a good alignment throughout the day.

4. Pimp your laptop

If you have to work off a laptop, try to make sure you can plug it into a monitor set to the correct height.

If you’re on the go, invest in a wireless keyboard and prop the laptop up on a stand so your neck is in a good position.

5. Move every 30 minutes

Whether sitting or standing, make sure you move every 30 minutes. That might be simply standing up and swaying your hips from side-to-side or walking around your desk two or three times.

Sustained bad posture is more dangerous than anything else. The longer you remain in one position, the more likely you are slouch or slump into a bad position, but if you get up and move, even just for 20 seconds, it will prompt you to reset your posture.

6. Speak up if you’re having issues

If you are working in a hot-desking environment and there is a chair or work station that particularly agrees with you, don’t be afraid to put your name on it, particularly if you’re suffering any ailments.

Hot-desking isn’t for everybody and it’s not in a company’s interest to make their employees uncomfortable, so speak to a manager or HR if you are having ongoing problems.

news londonAshleigh Wienand is lead clinical physiotherapist at Ultra Sports Clinic