In this blog post, I talked about researchers' fear of leaving information out of their…
Today I’m not going to post about science or data or design. I’m going to post about another topic I tend to get on my soapbox about: ergonomics.
Hey, I sit at a desk every day. My clients sit at a desk every day. This topic is totally relevant.
My former employer had an ergonomics expert on retainer, so I spent 12 years in a reasonably comfortable office set-up. On the occasions when I worked at home, I would sit in a standard chair, at a regular desk or table. It was definitely less comfortable than my office setup, but I was a spry 30-something, and I didn’t work from home terribly often, so I just let it ride.
And then…BOOM, I turned 40. And then, BOOM, the entire world (including my office) shut down for COVID. All of the ensuing time spent hunched at my ergonomically-deficient home workstation left me with tight shoulders, tension headaches, and an extra-grumpy disposition.*
It was time to make some changes.
I visited this ergonomic desk height calculator. The calculator said that, with my 4’11” height rounded up to 5 feet even, my seated keyboard height should be 23 inches (58cm). This is quite a bit away from the industry-standard desk height (even for many children’s desks) of 29 inches. And that’s not just a short-person problem! According to this website, the standard desk height is ergonomically appropriate for someone who is about six feet tall.
So, I began the hunt for a desk that was low enough to meet my needs…a search complicated by high demand and supply chain issues. I spent hours scouring the internet, and my optimism turned to despair as I made three realizations:
- There are almost no appropriately-sized desks for average-height or petite women.
- The desks and chairs that are out there typically come with all sorts of bells and whistles (e.g., motorized height adjustment) and are very expensive.
- Every appropriately-sized desk and chair in existence is either masculine/industrial or intended for a child.
In the end, I forked over any money I’d saved on gasoline and from wearing the same three pairs of yoga pants, for the iMovR Energize compact standing desk (with extended-height base)** and the OM Seating PT62 chair. Nearly two years later, I’m still really happy that I broke down and spent the money…I can sit and work comfortably for hours. This is especially important now that I work for myself, and my home desk is my only desk.
For people who spend lots of time at a desk, I highly recommend investing in a desk and chair that are the right height for your body. If budget is limited, or if you want to save furniture from the landfill, I think you could totally DIY it by trimming down the legs of garage sale finds.
To furniture manufacturers, I make three pleas:
- Please offer desks and office chairs in heights that are appropriate for adults who are less than 6 feet tall.
- Offer this furniture at multiple price points. Don’t extort customers whose needs fall outside the “norm.” This is a health and quality of life issue.
- Offer this furniture in a variety of styles. I found not a single ergonomically-correct chair…not ONE…without black plastic arms and base. This makes even the most expensive chair look generic and cheap.
Do you have soapbox-worthy feelings about office furniture? Have you found particularly stylish or budget-friendly pieces? Comment below!
*This was on top of baseline COVID-grumpy.
**I didn’t need a standing desk, but this ended up being my best option. I thought I could maybe become a “standing desk person.” (Narrator: She was not, in fact, a standing desk person.) However, it’s nice to be able to make height adjustments for my web cam (so people aren’t looking up my nose) and for eating lunch (plate closer to face = fewer spills on shirt).