When I started working at home, I hit the yard sales for inexpensive furniture. Not a bad idea, but when you spend 8+ hours at a desk, you need to be comfortable. It didn’t take long before my back and shoulders started to hurt. Then I started dreading going to work. Then I stopped writing as often as I should – I could always find a dozen other things to do instead of sitting at an uncomfortable desk.
The spiral continued until I finally started investing in my furniture (and myself). It doesn’t have to cost a lot to make your office more comfortable, and therefore more functional. A few inexpensive tweaks to your desk and chair can make a big difference.
- Elevate. It’s easier on your neck and back when you’re looking straight ahead instead of down. Don’t put your monitor or laptop on your desk – buy a riser/shelf and keep your screen at your natural eye level (Bonus: this will give you extra storage space on your desk, as you can put your stapler, tape, and tissues under your screen). I purchased shelves at the office supply store for less than $20.
- Externalize. When I bought my first laptop I loved to convenience of carrying everything with me and working anywhere I wanted. Now I can’t type on my laptop for longer than a day or two without the tendinitis in my wrists flaring up. Solution – external keyboard. Better solution – ergonomic external keyboard. (If you have a laptop and decide to elevate your screen, this is a must-have.) If your budget is tight, buy a corded keyboard for less than $20.
- Multiply. Invest in a second monitor. I don’t know how I ever functioned with only one. Side-by-side screens let me compare pre- and post-edited documents; I can research without closing my work-in-progress; I can watch reruns while scheduling my social media without having to minimize either screen (that last one may not apply to everyone). Don’t forget – if you elevated your main monitor, you’ll need to elevate this one as well. I bought my second monitor during back-to-school sales; that’s a great time to save money on your office!
- Adjust it. When you put your hands on your keyboard, your elbows should create a ninety degree angle. Too much more or less than that can cause strain on your arms, so don’t be afraid to raise/lower your chair.
- Support it. Someone gave me a free office chair – the perfect price for a new business owner! The problem: it’s not very comfortable. The solution: a lumbar support pad ($15-20) and a seat cushion ($30-40). Now I can sit and focus without the discomfort.
- Give yourself a lift. After you adjust your chair, you may notice that your feet dangle. Even if you can touch the floor with a flat foot, you may be stretching, which can cause pressure points. I didn’t believe it at first, but then I tried a foot rest – amazing! You may need to experiment with a few different heights, but start with 4-6 inches and see if you can feel the difference. You can buy an office chair foot rest, or make one for yourself (we used some scrap wood and a few nails).
Working from home comes with enough distractions as it is – don’t let your office space deter you from doing your work. Make yourself comfortable, then get back to work!