Ergonomic Office Furniture and Accessories: A Head To Toe Introduction

Before Delving into Tips…

Remember that using ergonomic office furniture and accessories does not substitute for fundamental ergonomic practices like regular movement, stretching, and maintaining proper posture. The right setup can significantly enhance comfort and productivity, but individual needs vary. Developing habits and routines that promote ergonomic health is crucial for overall well-being.

This Is Not Medical Advice, We Are Not Doctors

As office furniture designers and specialists with over 10 years of experience, we provide the best information we have available to us, but we are not doctors and this should not be considered medical advice. Our goal is to offer ideas that may improve your comfort level at work. These well-researched suggestions have proven effective for many of our customers over the years. Please consult your doctor for any medical needs.

neck pain diagram

Head and Neck Issues
Find The Right Headrest and Screen Position

Common Issues:

  • Neck Strain
  • Headaches

Ergonomic Solutions

Office Chair Headrest

A headrest on an office chair provides critical support for the neck, significantly reducing strain and preventing headaches. The headrest should be adjustable to fit the natural curve of the cervical spine, ensuring proper alignment and support. This helps maintain a neutral head position, which alleviates stress on the neck muscles and ligaments.

Headrest Support

A well-designed headrest supports the head and upper neck. It prevents the head from tilting forward or backward. This support is crucial during long sitting periods. It reduces muscle fatigue and the risk of tension headaches. Start with this to incorporate ergonomic office furniture into your workspace.

Computer Monitor Arms

Proper monitor placement is crucial for preventing neck strain and promoting ergonomic health. Adjustable monitor arms allow for the precise positioning of the screen at eye level. The top of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye level, ensuring that the head remains in a neutral position. This setup reduces the need to tilt the head up or down, which can lead to neck strain.

Position

Position the monitor about an arm’s length away to prevent leaning forward, which strains the neck and shoulder muscles. Use adjustable monitor arms to provide flexibility in height and distance adjustments, accommodating various tasks and preferences. This ergonomic office furniture addition encourages a relaxed posture and reduces the risk of neck and shoulder discomfort.

Avoid “Craning”

Avoid craning the neck forward, a common tendency when viewing screens positioned too low or too far away. Ensure the monitor is at the correct height and distance to mitigate this issue. Holding your head forward dramatically increases the load on your neck, as shown in the diagram below:



Document Holders

Various types of ergonomic office furniture and accessories can enhance neck comfort. One small suggestion is the use of document holders. These handy little things can be placed next to the monitor, and when used properly will reduce the need to look down at papers. This can help you to maintain a neutral neck position throughout the workday.

A Headset

Headsets can be used for phone calls to avoid cradling the phone between the ear and shoulder, which can cause neck strain. These last two items, document holders and headsets are both examples of how you can eliminate repetitive strain and take small steps that don’t necessarily require you to get all new ergonomic office furniture.

Focusing on these ergonomic solutions

Such as incorporating a supportive headrest, positioning the monitor correctly, maintaining proper posture, and using ergonomic accessories—can create a workspace that promotes neck health and reduces the risk of strain and discomfort.

Shoulders and Upper Back
High Back Office Chairs

Common Issues:

  • Shoulder tension
  • Upper back pain

Ergonomic Solutions:

Shoulder Support: Adequate shoulder support is critical for maintaining proper posture and reducing tension in the upper back and shoulders. Office chairs designed with a high backrest that extends to the shoulders provide the necessary support, ensuring even weight distribution across the upper body. This support minimizes the risk of the shoulders hunching forward, which is a common cause of upper back pain and shoulder tension.

Office Chair Backrest:  The chair’s backrest should follow the natural curvature of the spine, promoting an upright and neutral posture. An S-shaped backrest is ideal, as it supports the spine’s natural shape, encouraging a healthy sitting position. Chairs with adjustable backrests are particularly beneficial, as they allow customization to fit individual needs. Adjusting the height and tilt of the backrest ensures that the shoulders are well-supported, regardless of the user’s height or sitting style.

Chair Armrests: Armrests play a significant role in supporting the shoulders and upper back. They should be adjustable in height and width to ensure that the user’s arms are supported without causing the shoulders to lift or slouch.

diagram of proper armrest height

Properly positioned armrests allow the elbows to rest comfortably at a 90-degree angle, reducing strain on the shoulders and upper back. The armrests should also be padded to provide additional comfort and prevent pressure points.

Desk Setup: The setup of the desk itself can impact shoulder and upper back health. The desk should be at a height that allows the forearms to rest comfortably parallel to the floor when typing or using a mouse. Items that are frequently used should be within easy reach to avoid overextending the arms and straining the shoulders. Lower back discomfort is one of the leading complaints among office workers. When choosing ergonomic office furniture, making selections that support your lower back is one of the best things you can do.

Lower Back: Adjustable Lumbar Support

Common Issues:

    • Lower back pain

Ergonomic Solutions:

Proper lumbar support plays a crucial role in reducing lower back pain and promoting a healthy sitting posture. Office chairs with built-in lumbar support or adjustable lumbar cushions maintain the natural curve of the spine, specifically the inward curve of the lower back, known as the lumbar lordosis. This support distributes weight evenly across the lower back, reducing pressure and preventing pain.

Chairs with adjustable lumbar support allow users to customize the position and firmness of the support to fit their unique spinal curvature. This adjustability ensures adequate support for the lumbar region, regardless of the user’s height, weight, or sitting preferences.

A well-supported lumbar region prevents slouching, a common cause of lower back pain.

Chair Adjustments: The overall adjustability of the office chair contributes significantly to lumbar support. Chairs with adjustable seat depth allow the user to position the backrest properly against the lower back while ensuring the thighs are adequately supported. The ability to adjust the seat height ensures that the feet rest flat on the floor, with the knees at a 90-degree angle, promoting a neutral lower back posture.

diagram of common chair ajustments

For a guide to how to adjust your office chair, see this office chair adjustment guide on Wiki-how – or request one from the dealer or manufacturer of your office chair. Most decent chairs have one available. Generally speaking, ergonomic office furniture should allow for customization and encourage movement throughout the day.

Ergonomic Cushions: For chairs that lack built-in lumbar support, ergonomic lumbar cushions can be added. These cushions are designed to fill the gap between the lower back and the chair, providing the necessary support.

Memory foam lumbar cushions are particularly effective as they contour to the shape of the lower back, offering personalized support and comfort.

Desk and Chair Alignment: Ensuring that the desk and chair are properly aligned is crucial for lumbar support. The desk height should allow the user to keep their forearms parallel to the floor while typing, reducing the need to lean forward. The chair should be positioned close enough to the desk to maintain an upright posture without overreaching.

Arms and Hands: Proper Mouse and Keyboard Usage

Common Issues:

    • Wrist strain

    • Carpal tunnel syndrome
diagram of proper and improper arm alignment

Ergonomic Solutions:

Proper Mouse and Mouse Usage: Using an ergonomic mouse that fits the natural curve of the hand is essential for reducing wrist strain. An ergonomic mouse is designed to keep the hand in a more natural, handshake-like position, which minimizes twisting of the wrist. This design reduces the strain on the tendons and muscles of the hand and wrist, helping to prevent repetitive strain injuries.

diagram of correct mouse usage and hand alignment

The mouse should be positioned as close to the keyboard as possible to minimize reaching. This setup keeps the wrist in a neutral position, avoiding excessive extension or flexion, which can lead to discomfort and injury. An ideal ergonomic mouse will have customizable buttons and sensitivity settings, allowing for minimal movement and effort during use.

Mouse Pads: A mouse pad with a built-in wrist rest provides crucial support for the wrist, keeping it aligned and reducing pressure on the median nerve. The median nerve runs through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, and excessive pressure on this nerve can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, characterized by pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and fingers.

padded mouse pad wrist benefits illustration

The wrist rest should be firm yet comfortable, providing support without restricting movement. It should elevate the wrist just enough to keep it in line with the hand and forearm, preventing the wrist from bending upwards or downwards. A well-designed wrist rest distributes pressure evenly across the wrist and forearm, further reducing the risk of strain and injury.

Keyboard Positioning: The positioning of the keyboard is equally important in preventing wrist strain. The keyboard should be placed at a height where the elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle, with the forearms parallel to the ground. This position keeps the wrists in a neutral posture, minimizing the risk of strain.

keyboard position diagram

Keyboard Trays: A good keyboard tray should be adjustable in height and tilt to ensure that the keyboard is positioned at a comfortable level for the user, allowing for a neutral wrist position. It should have enough space to accommodate both the keyboard and a mouse, reducing the need for excessive reaching. Some trays also feature a padded wrist rest, which helps to maintain proper wrist alignment and reduce strain. 

keyboard tray example photo

By positioning the keyboard and mouse at the optimal height and angle, a keyboard tray can significantly reduce the risk of wrist strain and repetitive stress injuries, promoting a more ergonomic and comfortable typing posture.

split keyboard photo

Split Keyboards: Using a split keyboard can also be beneficial, as it allows the wrists to remain straight while typing.

Split keyboards are designed to match the natural angle of the hands, reducing ulnar deviation (the bending of the wrists towards the little finger), which is a common cause of wrist strain.

Typing Technique: Adopting a proper typing technique can significantly reduce wrist strain. Typing with a light touch, rather than pounding on the keys, reduces the impact on the wrists and fingers. Keeping the wrists slightly elevated and floating above the keyboard, rather than resting on the surface, also helps maintain a neutral position.

Desk and Chair Height: Finding the Right Balance

Common Issues:

    • Poor posture

    • Leg discomfort

Ergonomic Solutions:

Chair Height: The height of the chair should complement the desk height to ensure a comfortable and ergonomic posture. The chair should be adjustable, allowing the user to position their feet flat on the floor with the knees at a 90-degree angle. This position helps maintain proper blood circulation in the legs and reduces the risk of leg discomfort and swelling.

chair height guide diagram

An ergonomic chair should also have adjustable features such as seat depth and backrest height to support the natural curve of the spine. These adjustments help distribute weight evenly, reducing pressure on the lower back and thighs. Proper chair height ensures that the user can maintain a neutral posture, with the head, neck, and shoulders aligned.

Standing Desks: Alternating between sitting and standing can significantly reduce the risk of developing musculoskeletal problems. Standing desks or sit-stand desks offer the flexibility to change positions throughout the day, promoting movement and reducing fatigue. The transition between sitting and standing should be seamless, allowing for adjustments to the desk height without interrupting workflow.

standing desk posture example

When using a standing desk, the monitor should be positioned at eye level to prevent neck strain, and the keyboard and mouse should be at elbow height to maintain a neutral wrist position. Anti-fatigue mats can be used to provide cushioning and support for the feet, reducing the strain on the legs and lower back during prolonged standing periods.

Anti-Fatigue Mat: An anti-fatigue mat is designed to provide cushioning and support for people who stand at standing desks, reducing discomfort and fatigue. Made from materials like foam or gel, these mats encourage subtle movements that promote better blood circulation and reduce pressure on the feet, legs, and lower back. 

person standing on an anti-fatigue mat

A good anti-fatigue mat should have a non-slip surface to ensure stability and be thick enough to provide comfort without compromising balance. By alleviating the stress on muscles and joints, an anti-fatigue mat can make prolonged standing more comfortable and promote overall ergonomic health.

Legs and Feet: Proper Chair Cushion and Footrests

Common Issues:

    • Poor circulation

    • Leg fatigue

Ergonomic Solutions:

Footrests: A footrest can play a significant role in maintaining proper posture and promoting circulation in the legs and feet. Adjustable footrests allow users to position their feet comfortably flat, which is essential for maintaining a 90-degree angle at the knees. This position helps keep the spine aligned and reduces strain on the lower back and legs.

foot rest side view diagram

Footrests should be stable and large enough to support both feet without causing them to dangle or rest unevenly. A footrest with a non-slip surface provides additional safety and comfort. Adjustable footrests that can be tilted or rocked slightly are ideal as they encourage subtle movement, promoting better blood flow and reducing the risk of stiffness and fatigue.

Other Considerations Outside of Ergonomic Office Furniture

The Importance of Ergonomic Practices: While ergonomic furniture and accessories provide critical support for the head, neck, shoulders, back, arms, and legs, they are not a replacement for fundamental ergonomic practices. Regular movement, stretching, and maintaining proper posture are essential components of a healthy work environment.

desk and chair alignment correct posture

Proper Sitting Posture

Maintaining a proper sitting posture is essential for leg and foot comfort. Keep your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle. This position aligns the spine and reduces pressure on thighs and lower back. Regularly adjust your posture and avoid crossing your legs to promote circulation and reduce discomfort.

Regular Movement

Incorporate regular movement into your daily routine to alleviate leg fatigue and improve circulation. Stand up, walk around, and stretch every 30 minutes. This reduces stiffness and promotes blood flow. Perform leg stretches like calf raises and ankle rotations. These stretches maintain flexibility and prevent discomfort.

man taking a break from work at his desk

Taking breaks to stand, walk, and stretch throughout the day is crucial. Movement helps prevent stiffness and promotes circulation, reducing the risk of discomfort and injury. Aim to stand up and move around at least once every 30 minutes.

Stretching: Incorporating stretching exercises into the daily routine can alleviate muscle tension and improve flexibility. Simple stretches for the neck, shoulders, back, arms and legs can make a significant difference in overall comfort and health.

Summary of Ergonomic Office Furniture Principles:

Head and Neck:

  • Use an adjustable headrest to support the natural curve of the neck.
  • Position the monitor at eye level with adjustable monitor arms to maintain a neutral head position.

Shoulders and Upper Back:

  • Ensure the chair has a backrest that extends to the shoulders for proper support.
  • Use armrests to support the arms and reduce shoulder strain.

Lower Back:

  • Utilize chairs with built-in or adjustable lumbar support to maintain the spine’s natural curve.
  • Adjust the chair height and seat depth to ensure proper lower back support.

Arms and Hands:

  • Use an ergonomic mouse and keyboard to reduce wrist strain.
  • Employ a mouse pad with a wrist rest for additional support.

Legs and Feet:

  • Ensure the chair cushion supports the thighs without pressing too hard.
  • Use a footrest to maintain proper posture and promote circulation.

Desk and Chair Height:

  • Adjust desk and chair height to ensure elbows are at a 90-degree angle when typing.
  • Consider using a standing desk to alternate between sitting and standing.

Ergonomic solutions and practices vary from person to person. What works well for one might not suit another. Personal comfort and needs should guide ergonomic office furniture selection. Regularly assess and adjust your workspace to meet your personal ergonomic office furniture needs.

Incorporate ergonomic principles, regular movement, stretching, and proper posture. This creates a comfortable and health-promoting work environment. We hope this information helps you have a healthier, happier workday!