Is it Time for a New StandUpRight Regular Feature? How About Ergonomics Wednesday?


I’ve been working at home for several months now, and through it I’ve noticed that work from home is very different from work at the office. This was no revelation for me, and I doubt it is for you either, but there you have it:

Working from home is different from working at the office.

In my efforts to “overcome pain, regain mobility and learn to stand up right,” one of the things I put a fair bit of effort into was the ergonomics of my office working area. Being at home these last 3 months, I’ve had to apply the lessons learned to my home office.

So, ergonomics. First, what is ergonomics? From Merriam Webster online:

an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely

— called also biotechnologyhuman engineeringhuman factors

Ergonomics is an entire field of engineering. No, seriously, you can get a degree in this stuff. Eergonomists apply psychology and physiology to design, with the intent to make products, processes and systems easier and safer to work with, resulting in greater safety, comfort and productivity.

That right there is a heckuva mouthful, innit? A mouthful that goes far beyond most people’s understanding of ergonomics, which seems to boil down to; having a chair with lumbar support.

Well, for our purposes, we won’t dive so deeply, but we will surely go beyond picking a chair. Then again, your chair is good place to start.

Posture isn’t just what you do when you’re standing, it’s how you hold your body, sitting, standing, moving, or even lying down. Since we spend most of our workdays sitting down, making sure our sitting posture is correct and healthy is important for;

  • Comfort
  • Safety (no long term back problems)
  • Productivity (no pain to distract you)

In other words, it encapsulates the very definition of ergonomics.

To begin, your desk chair needs to be the correct height, for you. Those last two words are key. Imma repeat that. Your desk chair needs to be the correct height for you, which is the reason desk chairs have height adjustment.

When you are sitting, your knees should be slightly elevated to prevent your thighs pulling your lumbar out of shape. Additionally, your knees should also be appropriately spaced for your body. If, for example, you have deep hip sockets, your knees must spread, to prevent your thighbones from impinging on your hip sockets and rounding out your lumbar.

Most people also require some level of cushioning, to reduce pressure on the tailbone and lower spine, allowing for motion and circulation.

In addition, the back of the chair should provide for correct spinal position. This can be through adjustable lumbar support, proper curvature in all directions, and it should have some give, for the same reasons as it needs to have cushioning for your butt.

Now, at the office, I have a very expensive desk chair with all of the above, plus the seat and back supports are mesh, to allow for breathing so my back doesn’t get sweaty. At home, most of this is lacking. So what to do?

Ergo Chair on a Budget

If you lack several hundred dollars to buy a top flight desk chair (and who has that?) there are several options.

  • Buy a yoga ball and sit on it. This requires learning proper posture, removing the onus from the chair and putting it on you.
  • Buy a cheaper chair and augment it.
    • You can buy lumbar supports to add to your chair. Barring that, you can put a cushion in the small of your back to provide lumbar support
    • You can also put a thin cushion on the chair to support you butt and tailbone
    • If the chair is too high for proper knee and hip positions, prop up your feet. You can buy foot supports, or simply put a piece of 2 x 4 under your desk to rest the balls of your feet on.

The key to all of this, and I can’t stress it enough, is that you’re going to be sitting there for 8, 9, 10 hours a day, so you need to be comfortable, which means proper posture and no pain. The good news is, while you can spend a small fortune on a desk chair, you don’t have to.