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Ask The Readers: How Do You Keep Your Workspace Comfortable and Ergonomic?

Most of us spend a lot of time at our workstations both at the office and at home. How have you tweaked your workspace to keep things comfortable and ergonomic?

Whether you work at a traditional desk in an office, deploy a mobile work station as you drift from location to location, or work entirely from home, we want to hear your tips and tricks for keeping your body comfortable and injury free.

How do you configure your work station? What kind of mouse do you use? How is your desk setup for maximum comfort? Have you bought or made add-ons and accessories for the sole purpose of increasing comfort and ergonomic alignment?

Sound off in the comments with your workspace design tips and trick; don’t forget to check back in on Friday for the What You Said roundup.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/1/12

Comments (25)

  1. Tegan

    The number one thing that keeps me comfortable is a clean work space. Every other day I wipe everything down with a windex and vinegar solution, I clean my screens and I use my jar of cyber clean on my keyboards and mouse.

    I vacuum the floor twice a week and use the hose attachment about every other week to clean out the vents on my computers,network equipment and assorted video game consoles.

    I have my secondary monitor mounted on the wall adjacent to my desk because it really helps with neckstrain and I can view it while sitting at my desk or while sitting in the space near my desk I designated for relaxing. It consists of a small book shelf and a small sofa bed.

  2. Steven

    Since I use the computer at late hours doing work, my eyes tend to get strained. To address this, I use a free program called F.lux that adjusts the temperature of the monitor according to the time of day. At night, the colors become warmer and in the day, the colors are normal.

  3. TechGeek01

    I don’t have any gel pads or mats like you would find in mousepads or as standalone wrist rests. However, When I use my laptop, the way it is positioned, the edge will dig into my wrists oftentimes. To remedy this, I have an external keyboard which I use (it is more comfortable in the long run, and easier to use and navigate than the built-in one). This keyboard is 6 or 7 inches lower than my laptop, so nothing digs into my wrists.

    Also, to avoid moving my hands too much, my mouse is a trackball. This way, I avoid having to move my hands with the mouse all the time.

    I have a wooden office chair to sit in. I’m on a budget, so at the time, an executive office chair is out of the option, but this works for now, and it’s a lot more comfortable than you would think.

    Aside from this, all of my cables dangling from my laptop are either tucked out of the way, or bundled and tied somewhere.

    At this point, this is about as comfortable as I can get my workspace and still get maximum efficiency from my laptop. I am a computer guru, and have a USB hard drive and at least 6 or 7 other USB devices plugged in and running at any one time (I am building a computer at the moment, and will probably have to buy a couple of USB cards just to add USB ports to the computer along with the ones built-in to the motherboard, and on the front of the case.

  4. samon53

    I have wrist rests for both mouse and keyboard, a mouse designed to work on any surface helps. I keep my three screens at the right height with a laptop stand a wad of paper. I enjoy sitting in a chair very much like those you would see a James Bond villain sitting in. I also have a portable laptop stand for when I am on the move and use F lux on both my PCs. I also find my Lava Lamp helps complete my relaxation.

  5. Steve-O-Rama

    After having gone through several keyboards, mice, desks, monitors, chairs, etc., here’s what I’m running with at my main workspace:

    1. IBM Model M keyboard from 1993. This is #1 for many reasons, but most of all, my hands don’t hurt after an entire day of using the keyboard anymore. :)

    2. A comfy mouse – for me, it’s currently a Logitech m705 Marathon Mouse. Just like a keyboard, a mouse can make or break your computing experience. Since this one’s wireless, it also helps keep the desk more clear of cables. Alternatively, I like my old old old IBM USB optical travel mouse; its small size is great for times that I have to constantly flit between the mouse and something else.

    3. A freakishly-large L-shaped desk, which I’m in the process of converting (at least a section of it) to a stand-up. Nothing irritates me more than small desks, or running out of work space. I need to be able to have data sheets, notes, and reference materials spread out in front of me, and still be able to type and mouse around. The L-shaped desk ensures that I’ll always have a great amount of space, with the side benefit of being perfect for running three monitors at once — and I still have enough space for the PC and printers!

    4. My three monitors are large (I think…) and high-resolution, but on a budget. They’re all Acer H233H LCDs I picked up about two years ago on sale (the lot for not much more than $300, IIRC). Since I’m staring at monitors for up to a dozen hours a day, this was a good investment for me. I’d advise others to look closely at the pixel pitch of any prospective monitor, no pun intended; the difference between one with 0.265 mm pitch and another with 0.311 mm pitch (as common with 23-inch and 27-inch LCDs, respectively), can be significant to many users. Your eyes will thank you for spending the extra money on a better monitor (some days I wish I had spent even more, but these are still getting the job done). One item I REALLY wish they had is height adjustment. I should probably just buy some 3M monitor arms….

    5. The chair should be comfortable, but IMO, only for working. That is, I don’t think I should be able to lounge back in it like it’s a La-Z-Boy. I’d advise a small or no backrest, as well. No armrests, as they only get in my way. Since I’m trying to go stand-up, I think my next ‘chair’ will be an architect stool, with maybe one of those foam hunter’s cushions on the seat. A rubber floor mat will probably be on that roster, too.

    6. Cleanliness and organization! Second only to my earlier-mentioned pet peeve of running out of space is not being able to find things when I need them. A bookcase and a cart of plastic drawers work for me to keep binders, books, and office supplies close at hand yet in designated places. I also use old glass jars for pen & pencil storage, and a really large lag-screw hook to hang up my headphones. Regular vacuuming & dusting keep everything looking great – NO furniture polish, only clean water, or a mix of alcohol, water, and vinegar. Piles of papers are nowhere to be found, but they sure used to be common. :) I’d highly recommend investing in a good label machine (NOT one of those $20 cheap-o models) to help you find everything once it’s put away, but a Sharpie and a roll of masking tape can also work.

    7. Speakers – use whatever floats your boat & budget, but having a desk and PC with a decent sound system really make breaks feel like breaks, and listening to music while I work much more enjoyable. I only use the headphones when it’s really late at night, or something I want to listen to in detail.

    And finally….

    8. The PC itself. Having to put up with a sluggish, old, piece-of-crap PC would be torture for some (most?) of us; if it can’t play a YouTube video at high resolution without tripping over itself, rotate parts in SolidWorks or Pro/E [Creo] without ‘stutter’, boot in less than about 30 seconds, or open and close programs relatively quickly, it’s gonna drive me nuts. The investment into hardware that makes a PC truly enjoyable to use – for work AND play – is worth while if you’re stuck using it for hours on end. Otherwise, it’s as irritating as wearing a pair of shoes two sizes too small. I’m not sure about other users, but I get stress headaches, make stupid mistakes, and get downright grumpy using a crappy computer. That said, every user’s application will be different, as will their ability to influence the choice of hardware they’re using. I mean let’s face it, a graphic designer will need a much different PC than someone using Excel or Word all day.

    Other than that, just stay healthy, take frequent breaks, drink plenty of water, move around, and get completely away from the desk regularly.

  6. amnoy1990

    I spent money on my things, because i want to enjoy what im doing..
    and i can enjoy what im doing when im comfortable..
    i have my devices in easy access(like placing it under the table) so that i dont have to put extra effort on getting something.
    my wires are tag, so that i know what i must plug-in and out.
    beside my office table, i have my pet hannah(fish) to help me relax..

  7. rdunseith

    I recently raised my monitors up where the bottom center is at eye level. As I felt I was trying to look down to much. Also raised my chair and keyboard to where it just felt natural and required minimal movement. And where my legs and feet felt comfortable. My keyboard is tilted to where my elbows are just above my wrists but my hands and fingers stay at the natural curve. It took a few days to find that perfect match. But once I did I’ve noticed an increase of productivity. Being able to be at my pc for longer sessions has decreased my workload and increased productivity. And thus reduced my sessions if that makes sense. It’s a win win for my employer. Less overtime, more productivity.

  8. DiAnne

    I sit at my desk a ridiculous 12+ hours a day. There are a few requirements for comfort:

    1. Keyboard drawer – a keyboard sitting on a desk surface is a horrible thing to do to your body.

    2. External keyboard and mouse – as a big-busted woman (but not in the good way, unfortunately), an ergonomic split keyboard is critical. I’ve tried several and the best for me is the Microsoft Ergonomic 4000 (wired) or 7000 (wireless). It takes a day to get used to but it has eliminated all of my arm, wrist, hand, and even back pain and I’ve been using this keyboard for about 6 years.

    3. Good posture. This is easy to say but hard to practice. I’ve noticed that when I’m actually working, my posture is perfect. My back never touches the chair, I’m sitting erect with my shoulders back and I can work for hours like that. However, as soon as I switch from typing to reading, I find that I slouch or lean on the desk. It’s usually a twinge of discomfort in my back that reminds me that I need to get back to sitting properly.

    4. A foot stool. I’m short (5’3″) and my upper thighs used to get a small cramp in them because of pressure from the edge of the chair (it wasn’t the chair, it was that my thighs would slope downwards in order for my feet to be on the floor). I finally made a short foot stool on casters and now my legs are at a good 90-degree angle and it solved the problem. If I was 6 inches taller, this probably wouldn’t be a problem, but for someone short like me, this was a surprising fix to a problem I didn’t realize I was having.

  9. Danny

    Both at work (Systems Administrator) and at home (Gaming Enthusiast), I’ve got a Ergonomic Keyboard with a 5-button mouse.
    The Keyboard keeps me from straining my writst.
    The Mouses have a maximum height of 4.2 centimeters. I’ve found that my wrists will complain with a higher mouse aswell.

    Other than that, I keep the monitor at a minimum of an arms length away. This has resulted from complaints to my eyes when gaming for a long period at a time.

    And I sit in a comfortable Basic Office Chair (even at home) that supports the full length of my back.

  10. dragonbite

    I just recently set up a Standing Desk which, although it takes a little bit to get used to, is actually quite comfortable.

    I have a monitor raised to eye level, and my laptop is on the shelf that holds my keyboard, mouse, speakers and most importantly, my coffee. The shelf is a little low (1-2″ below elbow level) but sufficient. I know I need to try and avoid resting my wrist on the desktop while typing or using the mouse.

    I have a box on the floor I put one foot on and alternate feet so my lower back doesn’t seize up on me.

  11. Woody

    I bought a desk that has a pull out drawer that puts the keyboard at just the right height for my wrist to rest. I use a Logitech mouse that just fits my hand and a wrist jell pad.
    My monitor is setup so I can look straight into it. There is a pad on the chair with a set of message vibrators so my back does not get stiff when I am at the computer for a long time.

  12. BUZZ

    LETS SEE—I SIT ACROSS THE ROOM FROM MY ENTERTAINMENT CENTER… IT INCLUDES MY DESKTOP, MY HARMON KARDON AVR, MY BLURAY, AND MY DISH NETWORK RECEIVER… ON TOP IS MY 52″ 1080P 120HTZ VIZIO LCD TV… MY OFFICE CHAIR IS MY SOFA… I HAVE A LOGITECH WIRELESS KEYBOARD AND MOUSE AND THE SOFA CUSHION NEXT TO MY RUMP IS MY MOUSEPAD… THE PIP FEATURE ALLOWS ME TO HAVE A MOVIE GOING ON THE LEFT HALF OF MY SCREEN AND PC MONITOR ON THE RIGHT HALF… I KNOW THIS ISNT THE BEST OF WORKING CONDITIONS—ESPECIALLY WHEN A GOOD JOHN WAYNE MOVIE COMES ON… :)

  13. Jay

    heres my setup, being a full time graphic artist I find this works awesome for me!

    2 workstations, home and office

    right angle desks, i sit facing the corner where the setup is centered

    triple monitors,

    lamp w/ low wattage (25w) lightbulbs, hate bright work spaces!

    harmon kardon speakers w/ subwoofer

    lighted keyboard, with some custom keymapping

    keypad on left, with custom keymapping, (gotta have me an enter key and delete key and more on my left hand side!)

    misc items, gel wristpads, beanbag wrist support, and i covered the desks with black automotive fabric/carpet, it comes in rolls at the auto store and used for like trunks and rvs and stuff like that

    comfy stuffed swivel office chair

    and last, surrounded by everything i use and need and stuff just for fun, all organized and clean!

  14. Ringo2312

    @ BUZZ

    This article is about being comfortable whilst at your PC. ‘Shouting’ in cap’s is not conducive to comfort!
    I didn’t even bother to read your comment, as it was too much of a strain on the eyes.

    My recommendation to you is… TURN CAPS LOCK OFF!

    See what I mean :)

  15. George Raven

    NO.

  16. Michael

    Two things that have helped my comfort are 1) my Gateway 2000 Anykey programmable keyboard. I can program phrases I use all the time into keystrokes, so that Ctrl-* turns into “peeper,” the name of my deceased cat. Shift-Alt-6 types in one of my credit card numbers, Ctrl-u becomes my email address, and Shift-Alt-U becomes my wife’s. Unfortunately, Gateway no longer makes these keyboards, which had the added advantage of two sets of function keys, one in two rows down the left-hand side, like the old IBM keyboards, and another across the top, like the new ones. Being an old codger, I started with the old one, so Alt-F4 is my nearly-innate way of left-handedly ending a program or closing a window. 2) I find that using a touchpad is much easier than a mouse or even a trackball. It takes up much less desk space, and is similar to the ones found on laptops.
    Finally, you can get software utilities that let you program your keyboard just like the Gateway ones. Enjoy!

  17. Arcko

    As a coder, I will keep my machine clean and fast…

  18. Xuanson

    I have an L shaped table, where the corner of the L is pointing to the same direction as I’m looking.
    Okay now to the placement of the items:

    On the right side on the table and to the end of the table, I have placed a printer and a scanner there for use, under the table is where the computer case is left. and my mouse is also to the left side also. And my headset has it’s own sound card (Razer Megalodon), and I leave it on the left side whenever I use it.

    In the centre is where I leave my keyboard, and my monitor. And on each side of the monitor is a pair of speakers.

    Finally, to the left side, is all my school work, any paper. Basically ready for school!
    So yeah, pretty good.

  19. BUZZ

    UP YOURS RINGO—I HAVE A SIGHT DISABILITY !!! GET A GRIP—SHOUTING WENT OUT WITH YOUR HIGH SCHOOL TYPING CLASS WAY BACK IN THE 20TH CENTURY !!

  20. chris

    I use an old tower as a footstool

  21. jeorgekabbi

    @Michael
    you didn’t mention what software “that let you program your keyboard”. i know of one ,its called … ofc the famous AutoHotKey (free)

  22. Cathleen Caffrey

    I just spent 20 minutes inputting suggestios, and when I submitted, they vanished and I was told I’d used an ineligible word but not what the word is.

    I have lots of knowledge on this subject but I’m not about to enter it again. If anyone wants to know how someone who has had severe repetitive strain injuries has been helped and might help you preventing bad injuries from developing, please contact me. If they show my email address with my comment

  23. Cathleen Caffrey

    To the how to geek: Please add my email address to my previous message. I’d like to be able to help if I can but my hands are killing me just from the time spent entering the info that your site so graciously gobbled up.

    Cathleen Caffrey

  24. Smarter than the Average Bear

    Cathleen just use a coded message , don’t use the uppercase 2 symbol, for example “cathleen at hotmail ” using ‘at’ should bypass the moderator. Goodluck

  25. Beverly Kurtin

    My workstation was custom designed for me. I can rest my elbows on the edges of the table. I am disabled, so I use a wheelchair. The combination of the height of the table is matched to my chair and I can spend all day or night and never feel the slightest bit tired.

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