IT Technician’s / Developer’s Guide to Ergonomics, Your Desk

Every Bit Counts

As I outlined in the first part of this article, every small improvement adds up when it comes to ergonomics. No one improvement is going to make your environment perfect. At this point your hands are probably already damaged so even the smallest repeated agitation can cause problems.

Desks

Desks make a huge difference. I never realised how much an one inch height difference mattered until I got an adjustable desk. Throughout the day, depending on my fatigue levels one inch can be the difference between pain and comfort. Furthermore, because my hand braces prevent me from bending my fingers inappropriately, being in that sweet spot where everything is ergonomic is a very small window that a non-adjustable desk simply cannot do.

They’re not cheap, but they’re worth it

It me took me way too long to buy an adjustable desk. The price point of around $1000 was a huge turnoff. It wasn’t until someone else called me out on the fact I was being irresponsible with my health that I really realised it was time to make the investment. After doing some casual research, I found out that almost all of the friends I knew in software development we’re already using sit-stand or adjustable height desks. Their employers had already done the math that I failed to, and figured out that the cost of preventing injury is way lower than treating it. Sure, I caught flack for buying a $850 desk from friends and coworkers. But honestly, in retrospect, I’m ashamed I didn’t get one years ago.

Which desk to buy?

From what I’m realising, which desk you buy doesn’t really matter as long as it has an electric motor. If you don’t constantly adjust your desk, you won’t being getting much value out of it. The electric motor makes that easy enough where you don’t think twice about doing it. I opted for a sit-stand desk. Meaning that my desk goes all the way up to my standing height. If you’re going to be shelling out cash for an adjustable desk, the extra couple hundred for a sit-stand is totally worth it. You probably won’t realise until after you stand at a computer how nice it is to have THE OPTION of standing.

Which desk did you buy?

I have the Ergo Depot AD117, which is actually a ConSet Desk. I figured that out when I received the desk. ConSet doesn’t really deal directly with consumers though, so it appears as if they expect you to go through a dealer. The desk itself was made in North Carolina, and is actually quite nice. My only complaint is that the table top didn’t have any pilot holes predrilled to help with mounting. But, I have a feeling that’s because they were concerned about the wood warping as it dries out.

Ergonomic desk lessons learned

1. Buy an anti-fatigue mat.

Anti-fatigue mats are absolutely necessary to make standing for hours comfortable

Anti-fatigue mats are absolutely necessary to make standing for hours comfortable

Standing can actually be more comfortable than sitting sometimes, but your feet will tire quickly until you get an anti-fatigue mat. I bought this one, and I like it.

2. Use painters tape to mark your comfortable sitting and standing positions on the wall. 

Use painter's tap to mark your comfortable sitting and standing positions

Use painter’s tap to mark your comfortable sitting and standing positions

I figured this out pretty quick. Most desks do not come with programmable presets. This is in order to encourage you to adjust throughout the day. I think that’s a noble concept…but I also like to generally know what standing and sitting height is.

3. Your comfortable height changes throughout the day

As a rule of thumb, whenever my hands feel like their crowding on the keyboard, I know it’s time to adjust my desk. Usually throughout the day I’ll move between about an inch on either sides of my tape marks.

4. Ergonomic stuff takes up a lot of space

Ergonomic pads, and extra input devices take up space quick

Ergonomic pads, and extra input devices take up space quick

There is no way my old desk could have fit, all of the nonsense I have now. Between pads, multiple mice, and my small collection of hands braces. Get a desk one size larger than you think you’ll need. It really helps when your desk is deep enough to allow for any combination of tenting or padding that you might need. The picture above doesn’t show my extra mouse, my extra padding or ANY other items I might want to put on my desk. Plan ahead and go a little bigger.