How To Video
Set up an ergonomic workstationIf you spend hours each day sitting at a computer, make sure you're doing it correctly. Sharon Vaknin shows you how to arrange your workspace with your body's health in mind.
One way to think about what a good desk setup would look like is to sit back in your chair and relax. For most people it would look something like this, your feet are on the floor, you're leaning back a little bit, your shoulders are relaxed and your hands are on your lap. This is called your neutral posture and if you can keep it this way while you work, you'll be in good shape. With that in mind, let's build an ergonomic workstation. The most important part of a comfy desk is making sure your keyboard and mouse are positioned correctly. Considering this neutral posture your keyboard should be set 1 to 2 inches above your thighs and should be close enough to use that your elbows stay by your sides. For most people that probably means getting a keyboard tray or lowering your desk, but remember only 1 to 2 inches above the top of your legs. When you're there position your devices so that they're close to shoulder distance apart and that they're parallel with your thighs so that you're not extending your wrists like this. Keep the keyboard flat and forget about using those little kickstands. And speaking of your wrists don't ever use wrist rests. Resting your palms is one thing but the moment you use a wrist rest you cut off blood circulation and hello carpal tunnel. Next up, I've got a couple of useful tips for setting up your screen. First the distance. If it's too far away you'll start craning your neck to read what's on the screen. To find the sweet spot, extend your arm and the tip of your middle finger should land on your screen. So slide the monitor forward or back until you find that spot. If you have 2 monitors set them up side by side at an angle. Keep them as close as possible to each other so that when you pan your arm in an arc your fingertip reaches both screens. In this case I use this screen more often so I'll center it a little bit more. Now let's talk about height. There's no cut and dry rule but here's a little trick. Facing your monitor close your eyes. When you open them your eyes should land on the address bar. If they don't lower or raise the monitors either with a built-in option, with risers, or with books. Last of all tilt those monitors just a smidge to avoid reflections. Where everything finally comes together is your chair. It supports your back, your bottom, and of course your posture. There are lots of chairs to choose from but a few important things to look out for. First it should have good lumbar support for your back and when you sit down there should be a little space between the edge of your seat and the back of your knees about the size of your fist. Then the last thing to do is to make sure your feet don't dangle. If they're dangling don't adjust the height of the chair because you'll mess everything else up. Instead grab a footrest, slip it under your desk and problem solved. At this point you should have a pretty good idea of what an ergonomic desk setup should look like. From here you might wanna watch my video on avoiding eyestrain. And I have to say it, I talked to a couple of ergonomics experts and this is what they recommended, but go ahead and talk to your physician or an ergonomics specialist to find out what sort of setup would suit your needs. If you have any questions along the way hit me up on Twitter and check out Howto. CNET.com for the written version of this guide. For CNET.com, I'm Sharon Vaknin. Stay comfy.