The Worker's Guide to Feel Better in Your Workspace

Make these ergonomic adjustments to start feeling better at work soon

man on laptop

On any given workday, there are enough demands, emails, and to-do lists to keep your stress particularly high. But if you start to feel that stress in your neck, shoulders, lower back, and other areas, it might be time to rethink the way you're positioned when you work.

One-third of workers’ injuries and illnesses are caused by physical stress in the form of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A big cause of MSDs: workspaces. Make these simple adjustments from Bryan Williams, D.P.T., of Concierge Physical Therapy in Washington, D.C., to make your workspace more injury-free.

Keep your eyes up and hands low. This means elevating your computer monitor or laptop screen so it's at eye level. You want your elbows to be at a natural angle. Williams recommends using a wireless keyboard that you literally put in your lap.

Use a chair with a proper back. Avoid stools, so you can give your back the support it needs.

Invest in a footstool. This slightly elevates your feet to give them extra support and can take pressure off the lumbar spine, Williams says—which is particularly important for shorter people whose legs may not reach the floor.

Avoid crossing your legs. “That's an absolute no-no,” Williams says. When you cross one leg over the other, you rotate your pelvis over one side. That asymmetrical position can create tremendous pressure on the lumbar spine.

Take note of your posture regularly. “Once we start working and get involved in mental activities, we go back to our preferred positions,” Williams says, and suddenly “you realize you have been in a bad posture for hours.”

Invest in a headset or speaker phone. Avoid cradling the phone between your head and shoulder, which stresses the neck muscles.

Speak up. If your work involves typing long documents, look into dictation software that will autotype for you.

Get up and move around every 20 minutes. Take a walk to the printer, walk around the office, or swivel around in your chair.