My “home office” happens to be in the basement which is also my man cave. Pre COVID19, on the days that I was not travelling, I used to spend over 12 hours in the basement, and most of that time planted in my home office. However I had never really paid attention to ergonomics. I just pieced together the furniture and equipment over 13 years. Earlier this year, the lack of attention to ergonomics finally caught up. I developed cervical radiculitis which I attribute greatly to improper posture, all the travel and reading in bed. It resulted in severe shoulder pain and numbness in my left arm. Needless to say, I was pretty miserable for a couple of months and was on pain killers and had to undergo physical therapy.
The one positive aspect out of this experience is that I finally decided to make a few changes, one of which was to update my home office. I shared a picture of my setup on LinkedIn and it garnered a lot of interest. I fielded a lot of questions about my setup. This is why I decided to write this post in the hope that I can help others who are dealing with similar issues, especially now with all of us working from home.
The first and perhaps the most important change that I wanted to make was to invest in a sit stand desk. For those of us who spend 8-12 hours in front of a computer, this makes a HUGE difference as it forces you to stand and move about. Fortunately, there are so many options. To me, the main decision criteria were the following:
- Reasonably priced
- Reliable with good warranty
- Dark surface (preferably real wood)
- Large surface (72×30)
With these criteria in mind, I looked at a number of vendors including the Uplift desk, Autonomous desk, Vari Desk, Jarvis desk, New Heights XT etc. This post on btod does a great job comparing the pros and the cons of the various desks.
In the end, I decided to go with the Uplift desk with a rubberwoood surface. I liked that they had a wide variety of large surfaces including real wood at a reasonable price, 7 year warranty on the entire frame (which is above average), excellent customer service and an awesome website that makes the entire ordering process a breeze (including the accessories). But you cant really go wrong with any of the desks. It comes down to personal preference.
In addition to the desk, I purchased the following accessories, some directly from uplift with the desk purchase and some separately:
- Advanced Comfort Keypad (Uplift)
- Magnetic Cable Organizing Channel (Uplift)
- Clamp-on USB Surge Protector (Uplift)
- UPLIFT Modesty Panel 72″ (Uplift)
- Bamboo Desk Organizer Set (Uplift)
- UPLIFT Standing Desk Mat (Uplift)
- Qline Underdesk Pencil Drawer Organizer Tray (Amazon)
- Calico Designs Metal Full Extension, Locking, 3-Drawer Mobile File Cabinet (Amazon)
- YOY Drinking Home Office Table Desk Side Huge Clip Water Drink Beverage Soda Coffee Mug Holder (Amazon)
- AmazonBasics Under Desk Foot Rest (Amazon)
The second major change was the chair. I always thought that expensive chairs are a waste of money and that a regular run of the mill office chair would suffice. But boy was I wrong! A few months in, I can assure you that splurging on a good ergonomic char that is RIGHT FOR YOU is well worth the investment.
When I was looking for a chair, the first thing I did was crowdsource. I polled within my social network on what my friends were investing in and why. A few trends emerged:
- Herman Miller was by far the most popular brand with Embody and Aeron being the two most popular models
- Secret labs (and gaming chairs in general) and Steelcase Leap v2 were not far behind.
- Many recommended that I should go to a store and try out a chair before buying one.
In the end I ruled out Herman Miller as I thought they were overpriced and lacked the neck support that I was looking for. Steelcase, while good from an ergonomics perspective was not visually appealing to me. I was not a fan of gaming chairs and moreover they lacked all the adjustments that a higher end chair offered.
This is when I discovered XChair, specifically the X-4, and I instantly fell in love with the look. Also read a bunch of reviews where it was recommended for those looking for neck support in particular. Luckily I found a local RelaxTheBack store that carries the XChair. Once I sat in one, I knew it was the right chair for me. Every aspect of the chair was adjustable and once adjusted it felt like the chair hugged my body regardless of my posture. But the bottom line is that you really need to try out a chair before you know whether its right for you.
THE MONITOR SETUP
Another thing that I realized during this makeover is that monitor height really really matters. I still see a lot of people posting their office pics with a monitor mounted above another monitor. Depending on what you use the monitor for, looking at a monitor above eye level for sustained periods can definitely cause neck pain. Read more about monitor placement here
I had a three monitor setup but the height of the monitors was definitely off and that was contributing to my neck pain. As part of the makeover, I purchased a monitor mount which helped me fine tune my monitor placement. My current setup still includes three monitors:
- Viewsonic VP3481 34 inch Ultrawide Monitor in landscape mode
- Two Dell U2412m in Portait mode.
- Dual Monitor Mount (Amazon)
- Dell Docking Station D3100 compatible with Surface Book 2
The monitor orientation is all about preference. Some prefer getting a really large ultrawide monitor (especially the Samsung or Dell Ultrawide monitors) and using that as the only display. I like having a couple of monitors in portrait mode as its particularly useful when using applications like Slack and Twitter. I leave Slack on one monitor, Twitter/WhatsApp and Messages on the other Dell and the center 34 inch is where I do the bulk of my work. I’ve found this setup to benefit my productivity the most.
In addition to the big purchases above, I also purchased the following accessories that have made a difference and are worth mentioning:
- Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard
- Logitech Vertical MX Mouse (Love this thing!!!)
- Logitech C930e Webcam
- Elgato Keylight Air Lights for Web Conferencing and Recordings
- Jabra Speak 510 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (Amazon)
- Smart WiFi Alexa Light Bulbs for Office lighting (Amazon) – These bulbs work with Alexa and the color can be adjusted to reduce eye strain.
Thoughts Three Months In
While I was initially skeptical, I can tell you that these changes have definitely helped me deal with my condition. My shoulder pain and numbness have significantly reduced. I really enjoy spending time in my office and feel like my productivity has improved. Definitely worth the money and the effort. I would love to hear from all of you on your lessons learned. Let us all share our stories and help one another.