Rearranging your workspace to improve your posture and reduce painMaria Vera
Ergonomics is a word that gets bandied around a lot these days. If you’ve any experience working at a large company, then you’ve doubtlessly sat through at least one awkward slideshow extolling the virtues of sitting upright. Despite HRs cringeworthy presentations, the ergonomics of your setup are actually pretty important. Whether we’re talking about the desk where you prepare company accounts or the sick battlestation you virtually slay your foes from, ergonomics can have a dramatic effect on your performance — not to mention your comfort and your health.
Bad ergonomics can do everything from making you feel drained and unable to focus, to leave you in crippling pain. Poor posture in any part of your body revents good blood flow, leaving you feeling sluggish. Your body doesn’t do so well if the oxygen isn’t getting to where it’s needed.
Especially bad posture puts stress on your body, both in the organs and at the joints, and left ignored can leave you with anything from a crick in the neck and headaches to carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury (RSI).
On the other hand, a well-laid out desk and good posture will leave you feeling sharper and more alert, and massively outperforming your slouching, sloppier self.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the kind of advice given to you at work will also have a positive effect on you while you game. Games needing precision and reflexes in particular will benefit from good ergos. If you’re playing anything needing twitch reflexes or high Actions Per Minute for effective micro, you’re going to notice a difference even from just sitting up straight. So, how do you go about setting up your battlestation for the best ergonomics?
We start with the chair. You need to choose something comfortable and well-constructed, with full adjustment, and preferably with lumbar support. Set the height of your chair so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. You want to sit with your butt all the way back in the chair, so make sure you get one with a seat the right depth for you. If the blood is getting cut off in the back of your knees or your legs are projecting out into space, you need to find something else. Your feet need to be resting comfortably on the floor, or ideally on a 20-degree slope. They make little footrests that go under your desk, which are ideal if you’re trying to achieve great ergos but your desk is a little on the high side for you.
Your chair should have a full height adjustable back. If you can swing it, get one with both lumbar support and a good headrest — go for the lumbar support first. The back of the chair should follow the curve of your spine, giving comfortable support all the way up. The head rest isn’t so you can fall asleep in the chair, but should be adjusted to keep your head in a comfortably upright position when relaxed.
KLIM’s eSports gaming chair would be a good place to start. It’s fully height and tilt adjustable, with adjustable armrests and cushions for lumbar and neck support. You might be sensing a theme here! As we explained, all that adjustability really does make all the difference – people are all different shapes, and good posture relies on being able to adapt everything to you.
Desk height needs to work well with your chair. The ideal position has your desk sitting just below your elbows. With your fingers on the home row of your keyboard, your forearms should be comfortably horizontal when your shoulders are relaxed. You want enough space on the desk surface that everything fits comfortably.
Don’t neglect the depth of the desk to get something wider — a bigger desk gives you a lot more freedom in the positioning of your monitors. Also, if you keep it clean a properly sized desk looks very slick. Making the most of your view Let’s talk about monitors. The advice varies a little, but generally speaking your monitor should be far enough away that you can see the whole things without turning your head — usually about arms-length. Most of the guidance was written before the advent of ultrawide monitors, so depending on your setup you might want to adapt things a bit. Some people prefer to have the top edge of the screen on the level with your eyes, others prefer to be looking at the top third. Either way, adjust it so that you’re comfortable.
What’s behind your monitor matters — it’s important that you can easily look away occasionally to reduce the risk of eye strain. Placement with regards to windows is also important. It’s usually recommended that you keep any windows to your left or right, if possible. One behind your monitor can put the sun in your eyes, and a window behind you can leave you trying to squint through the glare on your screen.
Getting everything within reach
Put your keyboard and mouse where you can reach them in a neutral position. A good full-width mouse mat is a decent investment, as it gives you room to move and reposition things as needed.
For heavy typing, the keyboard should be front and center. You want to be relaxed with your fingers on the home row, and your wrists should sit straight on your arms — no bending up or down.
For gaming, a lot of people prefer to shift the keyboard a little to the side so their mouse is better positioned with more room to move.
If you are usually connecting USB pens or external hard drives, or if your computer is not located within easy reach, we advise getting a hub to place it on your desk so you can conveniently plug and unplug your USB sticks and devices. The KLIM Bungee is an inexpensive solution that gets you extra USB and micro SD ports and helps you keep the mouse cable under control.
Tidying it all up
Speaking of cables, it’s worth sparing a few words here for cable management. (Raise your hand if you’ve died an ignominious death in-game after standing on your monitor’s power cable.)
A little bit of forethought and some cable ties will make a big difference to the way your setup feels. I recommend using Velcro instead of the classic plastic ties — you can easily readjust everything later without cutting them off, saving some time and frustration.
Try and run your cables in bunches, and keep them following natural paths around your furniture — behind the monitor stand, under the edge of your desk, along the leg, and so on. It’s worth getting a mouse cable guide to stop your mouse hand being pulled short in the middle of a match.
Make it sound great
If you mainly run with headphones, then there’s not that much to do from an ergonomic standpoint. Maybe just get yourself a nice headphone stand within easy reach.
On the other hand, if you’re running a pair of studio monitors, then where you place them will actually make a significant difference to your audio experience. Put them at ear-height, roughly 90 degrees apart and pointing towards your head to get the most out of them.
Even if you can’t afford fancy gear, sitting up and positioning everything to keep yourself alert will help you get the edge in your game of choice or make it easier for you to finish your work without pain in your back, neck or arms. Give it a try, and see how different you feel.
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