“Your workstation should fit you like a tailored shirt,” says University of California ergonomist David Rempel. “If I come to your workstation and you’re six inches taller than me, it shouldn’t fit me.”
If your workstation doesn’t fit you, you’re in trouble. Typing speed goes down with discomfort, and error rates go up. If you ignore that tension in your shoulders, neck, or wrist, it can turn into injury -- like carpal tunnel syndrome, where a pinched nerve in your wrist causes tingling, pain, and numbness.
But if your workstation does fit you, then your performance will go up. Studies show that if you’re comfortable, your performance increases by 10% to 15%.
But ergonomics, the study of how workspaces affect our work, is left out of many workplace conversations. In his Bay Area practice, Rempel often sees new hires trying to make a mark -- and getting themselves injured in the process.
“Right away they’re working 50, 60, 70, 80 hours a week at a computer,” he says. “Those are people getting into trouble early, and they haven’t had training in setting up their workplaces."
"Their minds are totally in the task at hand, and they don't think about their body until it starts to hurt," says Rempel. "They'll ignore the pain in their body and work through that in order to finish the task. Then, two months later, their arm is in agony, and they can't use the mouse. Their shoulder hurts. They have to take time off, and if they don't and they keep working, they could end up with a permanent injury. That's a common story."
To prevent that from becoming your story, here's a quick guide to setting up your workspace for optimal health and productivity.