Is it Time to Upgrade Your WFH Office?

Now that working from home (WFH) is looking like our new work digs for the foreseeable future, it might be time to consider an upgrade.  At PBE, we are big believers in work with what you’ve got, but if equipment is the solution, it’s hard to know what type of equipment to purchase.

Whether you work for yourself, for a company, have a WFH stipend available, or are making these purchases out of your own budget, here are some guidelines to help you choose what is best for you.

Let’s start with your ergo essentials.

Seating

If you already have an “office” chair, meaning a task chair that is height adjustable, that is great.  If you don’t, before running out to get one, see if you can doctor up the chair you’ve got with things like pillows for added back support and added seat height.

If you decided that a new chair is for you, then here are some basic features that you’ll want to consider:

  1. Height Adjustability – Make sure that the height of the chair will accommodate the length of your calf.  The height of the chair from the floor to the top of the seat pan should at a minimum equal the length measured from your heel to the back of your knee.  The seat height should allow you to adjust to slightly below and slightly above your ideal height.
  2. Seat Pan – You will want your seat pan to allow for 2-4″ (2- 3 fingers) between the edge of the seat pan and the back of your knee.  You can measure from the back of your tush to the back of your knee and subtract 1 – 2″s.   If the chair you are considering has a seat slider, that can lengthen and shorten the seat.
  3. Seat Width – To know how wide your seat pan should be, simply measure the distance of your seat at it’s widest point.  Ideally, your seat should allow for a few inches on each side.
  4. Lumbar Support – Lumbar support for your lower back is very important.  If the chair has lumbar support that is adjustable in height and depth, that is ideal.  Please note that some chairs are designed to support you without adjustments.  You can always get additional lumbar support with pillows or a commercial lumbar support.
  5. Adjustable ArmRests – At a minimum, if you elect to use armrests, they should be height adjustable and should be able to be adjusted to go below your elbow height.

Here’s a guide to help you Choose the Right Chair

 

Desk

Whatever surface you choose to work on should be flat and allow for your keyboard and mouse to be at or slightly below elbow height.  If you are considering buying a new desk or table to work on, in order to determine the height of your work surface, sit on something that allows your knees to be level with your slightly below your hips (your most comfortable seat height).  Then hang your arms so that your elbows are close to your sides and directly under your shoulder.  Bend your elbow to 90 degrees and measure from the floor to the tip of your elbow in this position.   Your ideal desk height should be at least 1″ below the height of your elbow.

If you are considering a sit/stand desk, then you should also measure your elbow height from the floor to the tip of your elbow when standing and then apply the same 1″ rule.

Monitor / Screen

Whether you use an external monitor or your laptop, you will want your screen to be slightly below eye level and at least an arm’s distance away.   If you use a laptop, you can either plug into an external monitor or use books or a laptop riser to raise the screen to a comfortable viewing height.

If you use multiple monitors, then they should both be at the same height as each other.

Various options for getting giving a boost to your monitor height include:

  • Books, box or any other makeshift riser
  • Monitor Risers
  • Laptop Risers
  • Monitor Arms

 

Keyboard & Mouse

When it comes to choosing a keyboard and mouse, there a so many to choose from!   So let’s start with the basics types of keyboards and mice to help you understand the features of each.

Keyboards

  1. Full-Size Keyboards – This type of keyboard is most often the type of keyboard that is a standard issue with a computer.  It has the full keyboard plus a numeric pad all is one.  While this is convenient, for many there are several issues associated with a full-size keyboard.   If you sit centered to your keyboard, that places the letter portion of your keyboard to the left.   And because of the numeric pad, for many that can cause the mouse to be too far away.
  2. Split Keyboards – Split keyboards can help you overcome twisting at the wrist and type with more comfort.  They come in a few varieties.  Keyboards that have a fixed split, meaning you can’t adjust the angle of the split and those that you can adjust the distance of the split.  There are some keyboards that even allow you adust the keyboard so that the halves lie flat on your desk or with the thumb sides of the keyboard halves higher than the pinky side, allowing you type in a more pronated (handshake) position.
  3. Mini Keyboards – Mini keyboards are much like standard full-size keyboards but without the numeric pad.   If you want to use a numeric pad, they can be purchased as a separate component which allows you to use it on the left or right side of your keyboard or used as needed.   This allows you to place the mouse closer you to avoid overreaching.  Mini keyboards are available with and without a split.

Here’s a guide to help you Choose the Right Keyboard

Mice

  1. Standard Hand Held Mice – Much like full-size standard keyboards, mouse computers come with either a mechanical or optical mouse that can be wired or wireless.   For many, these are convenient and economical.   But for some, the size it too big, too small or promotes excessive grip force and twisting of the wrist.
  2. Verticle Mouse – Verticle mice allow you to have your hand in a more upright position (think handshake) which for some feels more comfortable than having the hand pronated (lying flat).   There are models for right hand, left hand and some come in small, medium and large.
  3. Trackball – Want to get away from hand held mice?  Trackball mice may be your answer.   These are typically stationary and have a ball that is maneuvered to move the cursor around.   These can help to avoid over gripping, but be mindful to avoid twisting your wrists or only using your fingers when using the trackball.
  4. Roller Bar – Roller bar mice sit in front of your keyboard.  This can help reduce any reach to the side of your keyboard and the cursor is moved by rolling the bar forward, backward and side to side.  For many, this is a huge relief.  Just be aware that because it is in front of your keyboard, you will need ample room for both and it will increase the forward reach to type.
  5. Tablet – Pen Mouse – A tablet with a mouse that is in the shape of a pen is a very viable alternative to traditional mice and their variations.  They allow for great precision and are very effective for CAD and design work.

Here’s a guide to help you Choose the Right Mouse

Last but not least, no matter what you choose, making sure to set yourself up so that you keyboard and mouse are at elbow height and within easy reach, your monitor /screen is at eye level and your back has good support (and you have great posture) is key to making any equipment “ergonomic”.

Let us know what upgrades you are considering or have gotten and how they are working!

Until the next time!

 

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