Don’t Ignore Desk Ergonomics
Could your old furniture be a productivity killer?
From back pain and eye strain to hand, arm and shoul- der injuries, bad ergonomic design spells disaster for productivity. Discomfort is distracting, but a pain-free mployee can fully focus on work – and that’s good for business. Make sure their desks don’t interfere by
choosing one with good ergonomic design.
A sound ergonomic environment in the office depends largely
on chair selection, but desks play an important role. An ideal
setup produces “as many 90-degree angles as possible” for the
user’s body, explains Daniel Freeberg, Senior Sales Associate for
The Human Solution, an office furniture vendor. Because hips,
knees and elbows should all produce right angles for optimum
comfort, both the chair and the desk must be adjusted to the
correct height for the user and be the right proximity to each
other. “For your neck, you should be looking at the top third of
your computer screen,” Freeberg adds.
But sitting more comfortably is only half the battle. You can
go further to support worker health by specifying sit-stand
desks, height-adjustable desks that allow users to switch
between sitting and standing throughout the day.
“Many studies show the health benefits of moving around
over the course of the day,” explains Mitch Bakker, a furniture
designer for IDa Design and frequent collaborator with furniture
vendor Gunlocke. “Standing for a portion of the time is part of
an overall approach to working ergonomically.”
How to Pick the Right Desk
When you’re weighing your options for new furnishings, don’t
neglect these three areas.
Optimization: “Having furniture that allows for
proper adjustments does not mean that the adjustments are set correctly,” Bakker notes. “Independent
studies have demonstrated that the majority of office
workers sit in products that can provide sound ergonomics, but they are not adjusted properly, ultimately
having an adverse effect on the user. Understanding
the relationship between the user, their size and their
workload against the settings is critical to lowering or
eliminating risk. Providing adjustability can be more
harmful to a user when they are not given instructions
on how to tailor the furnishings.”
Adjustment mechanism: Desks that can be adjusted
by the user instead of the facilities department are
ideal because they allow each person to choose when
to switch modes, notes Jennifer Wammack, a designer
for IDa Design.
“Within user-controlled options, electric mechanisms
seem to be edging out other options like a turn crank
or a pneumatic lift,” adds Wammack. “Electric mechanisms also have added features such as presets that an
occupant can program for their ideal ergonomic needs.
Presets are one way to address the potential for injuries stemming from improper adjustments.”
Movable accessories: If a sit-stand desk isn’t a good fit for
your budget right now, consider raising only a portion of the
surface, either with adjustable accessories or a fixed-height desk
with a height-adjustable tray.
“You want to have space for your mouse, keyboard and possi-
bly a tablet,” explains Freeberg. “Ergonomically, laptops are ter-
rible for you because they’re at a set height that is generally too
low and the keyboard is usually attached to the monitor, which
is too far. You want it on your lap where you’re typing. Look into
a tablet stand or laptop stand.”
A monitor arm that allows for 3-5 inches of height adjustment
will guard against eye strain, adds Bakker.
Janelle Penny firstname.lastname@example.org is Senior Editor of