Health Advocate Blog

Organize your workspace for better health

Sitting for prolonged periods hunched over a computer keyboard, working at a cluttered desk, and perhaps having a desk drawer stuffed with handy (but unhealthy) snacks, is a recipe for fatigue, low productivity, muscle strain and possibly weight gain. This spring, make some changes to spruce up your workspace—you’ll feel and perform better! Try these tips:

Arrange your work station for optimum comfort. You can reduce strain on your neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists and back by properly positioning your computer, keyboard and chair. Keep the top of your computer monitor slightly below eye level and positioned an arm’s length away. Place your keyboard and mouse to keep your wrists straight, and try using a padded wrist rest. Adjust your chair to keep your feet flat on the floor, knees level with your hips. Consider using a foot rest or a lumbar support pillow placed in the curve of your back.

Change working positions. Go from seated to standing, for example.  Check to see if a standing platform desk is an option—some models can be adjusted from sitting to standing height.

Keep only healthy snacks on hand. When the munchies strike mid-afternoon, reach for these items to avoid the vending machine: Single-serve bags of popcorn, individually-wrapped dark chocolate squares, juice boxes that contain 100% fruit juice, unsalted nuts, granola or trail mix. And always have a filled water bottle handy—a few sips can often satisfy a snack attack and even help perk you up!

Declutter your desk—and computer— for better focus. Make a To-Do folder for any paperwork or reports you need to address and file or toss any other papers that have piled up on your desk.  Create a system of folders and make sure that all files make it into a folder. And if there are files or programs you don’t regularly use, consider making a folder for them, too. Don’t forget to clear out your inbox!

Put a reminder on your computer to take regular stretch breaks. Movement can help relax tissues, lubricate joints, prevent stiffness, improve circulation, reduce fatigue and protect against long-term damagePlus, it can increase your comfort and productivity.  Even when you are pressed for time, at least take a break to do these five stretches:

  • Stretch Upwards: Sit up straight, raise your arms straight above you, and gradually stretch your upper body to be as tall as possible; hold position for a few seconds.
  • Neck Rotation: Slowly rotate your head as far as comfortable to the right, then the left.
  • Shrug: Slowly raise your shoulders toward your ears and hold for a few seconds. Gradually bring shoulders down and relax.
  • Shoulder Squeeze: Pull elbows back, squeezing shoulder blades together. Hold for a few seconds, then release.
  • Wrist Flex: With your elbows placed on your desk, use your left hand to gently bend your right hand back toward your forearm. Hold for a few seconds, and then relax. Repeat with the other hand.

Let your healthcare practitioner know if you have ongoing work-related back, neck, wrist or other muscle pain. You may be directed to physical therapy or other methods to help manage and prevent discomfort.