The set up of a modern office is vastly different to how traditional offices were designed, from the style and layout of the furniture to the quality of the pieces themselves. Where once structured cubicles and heavy partitions stood, now stand hot desks, shared workspaces and even experienced based architecture. Employees are expected to spend more time at work, and a growing number of office fitouts are designed to encourage staff to spend their work hours at their desks, and their leisure time in the shared amenities like elaborate breakout spaces and creative games rooms.
The technology of the office is rapidly changing too, with the most competitive companies providing all of the latest tools required for staff to be at their most efficient, all the time. With this increase in time spent at work and growing expectations of time put in, it’s critical that office workers have a comfortable, safe and sturdy workspace, known as an ergonomic workstation. Regardless of whether you hot-desk, work at a small desk or even work from home, customising your space is small time commitment with huge benefits. At Jason L, we’ve compiled a list of the best office furniture to fit any role, as well as some tips to staying healthy and comfortable at work.
So what is an ergonomic workstation, anyway?
An ergonomic workstation is one that has been designed, structured and set up to provide maximum support and comfort, and is customisable to fit the individual. This means that in a given company, whilst each member of staff may have the same office chair, no single workstation will look the same. Ergonomic furniture reduces the risk of workplace injury, increases safety at work and contributes to employee health. Safe Work Australia has reported that the cost of work related illness and injury has cost the Australian economy more than $60 billion per year, or 4.1% of the GDP, a large portion of which can be avoided by making smarter decision about how we work.
Take our poll to find out how your office compares when it comes to workplace health and safety!
Workplace health includes physical and mental health.
The greatest office expense
The average person spends at least 38 per week at work, and some estimates state that we put in almost six hours at our desks per day. Having an unsafe, uncomfortable or poorly designed workstation can lead to the following:
- Short term discomfort, like neck pain and headaches
- Long-term health issues, such as chronic back pain
- Bad moods due to prolonged periods of discomfort
- Decreased productivity
- An increased risk of R.S.I. and carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Injury at work, which can lead to financial and personnel loss for a company
For more facts on how your health at work could be impacting your life, click here.
Areas that are commonly impacted by said injuries include:
While these injuries may be caused by poor posture, a lack of exercise outside of work, obesity or the type of work undertaken, a badly designed workstation can be a major contributing factor.
What can be done?
There are several ways office workers can improve their health and wellbeing at work, including:
- Setting up their workstations to an ergonomic standard
- Buying high quality, comfortable and sturdy office furniture
- Taking regular breaks at work
- Stretching the body regularly
- Setting up their computer contrast appropriately to avoid eye strain
- Drinking water regularly
Pivotal Motion has put together a useful stretch guide for workers, that can undo the damage from a desk job. Read more here!
The location of your desk can also have a significant impact on your mood and comfort at work, so if you work from home or have flexibility in the office, consider:
- Moving your desk near a window, so you have some natural light and a view that isn’t just of John from Accounting’s head
- Adjusting the office lighting so there is minimal glare and shadows
- Playing light music that creates a nice mood but doesn’t distract
- Adding some greenery to the office
- Add some colour to an otherwise dreary office to change the vibe and keep things interesting
- Keep moving throughout the day, so that your desk space doesn’t become a dungeon, no matter how nice the view is.
We’ve put together a list of each part of your workstation, what to look for and how to decide what’s right for you, from chairs to keyboards and even music for the office.
Part 1: The Essential Chair
Be the Adam Levine your office deserves with this bold and ultra comfortable office chair.
Now described as the new smoking, sitting for extended periods of time is considered detrimental to to a healthy lifestyle, and can contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, issues with bowel function, weakened muscles, poor posture, spine stress, increased joint stress and even mental health problems. Unfortunately, on average office workers spend approximately 80,000 hours seated throughout their working life, and the modern office is set up in such a way that leaves little need for them to move around the space, except for the odd kitchen visit to check out what flavour of birthday cake is on offer this month.
For more on lower back pain check out this handy infographic.
Having the right chair is much like having the right boss: it encourages you, supports you and can be customised to suit your body (okay, maybe not that last one). When your chair is set up correctly and providing you with a comfortable support system you may not even notice it at all, but when it’s causing discomfort and strain, you’ll be distracted from your work and uncomfortable.
So, what should you look for in an office chair?
Whether you’re choosing a life partner or an office chair, it’s important to know what you’re looking for before you start. Your life partner and your chair should be supportive and long-lasting, but there are a few other things to look for when selecting your chair, including:
- Adjustable seat height options
- A recline feature
- An adjustable seat depth
- Lumbar support
- Adjustable armrests
- A backrest
- Memory foam (optional)
Do you suffer aches or pains from sitting all day at work? Find out what you can do about it on the Pivotal Motion website.
Adjustable features are a must for any office chair.
How to adjust your office chair
Table of comparison
- Take short 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes. After each hour or work, take a break or change tasks for 5-10 minutes. Tomato Timer is a great way to track your work and breaks!
- Check your posture to make sure you aren’t straining.
- If you work at a host desk, adjust the chair to suit your body before starting work.
Part 2: Defining Desks
The humble office desk is an element of the workstation we often take for granted, yet it is an essential part of a comfortable surface on which to work. A good table is sturdy, height appropriate, big enough to hold your computer, keyboard, mouse and other accessories, and have all of the required features to enable you to do your job with ease. Frankly, the lack of thought you put into your desk has really hurt its feelings. It’s time to make things right.
You may be selecting a desk for a busy workplace, a home office or perhaps a gaming station, and it’s essential to keep this in mind when doing your research. Questions to consider when choosing your office desk include:
- What will the main purpose of the desk be for, e.g. computer work, meetings, technical tasks?
- What is your budget?
- What size desk do you need?
- What aesthetic matches your office space? What colour and design do you like?
- What kind of desk surface do you want?
- Do you need storage?
- Do you want an adjustable or stand-up option?
A relative obscure and novelty option until recently has been the stand-up or height adjustable desk.What was once an expensive option is now becoming far more commonplace in offices, giving employees the option to sit and stand as they complete their work. It’s a strange feeling to be standing whilst typing at first, but once your body adjusts you’ll start to notice the benefits, such as less stiffness and more flexibility. As has already been outlined, there is significant risk associated with prolonged periods of sitting, and workers who have been sedentary for more than 10 years have double the risk of getting colon cancer than their moving counterparts. Other risks include:
- Increased risks of cancer
- Increased risk of cardiovascular decay
- Risk of developing muscular disorders
- Back pain and headaches
- Weight gain, obesity, diabetes
- High concentration of sugar in the blood
Two hours of sitting is as harmful as 20 minutes of exercise is beneficial.
Read more here.
If a standing desk isn’t in the budget or you’re not quite ready to commit, there are other similar options available, including:
- DIY standing desk, made by raising your workstation with products you already have
- Locus Leaning Seat
- Human hamster wheel
- The Level
- Manual desks
Table of comparison
- Choose a desk that suits your office purposes
- Consider an adjustable desk if you plan on spending long hours at work
- Choose a desk that matches your style and/or the office aesthetic
- Select a desk configuration that suits your needs
- Do your research
Part 3: Keyboards and mouses (or should that be mice?)
Though perhaps used primarily as a mini placemat to collect sandwich crumbs, the keyboard makes up an important part of the workstation. Its smaller companion; the mouse, should be working in conjunction with it to make typing and digital tasks a breeze. If only it were that simple.
Selecting the right keyboard should involve the same amount of consideration choosing an office chair or desk does, and if done right, will still be going strong long after your laptop has crashed. If you’re a gamer, the keyboard you use for work related tasks may be different from the one that leads you to world domination, as the best designs are purpose built to provide maximum comfort for the task at hand.
Features to consider:
- Connectivity - do you prefer wireless or USB?
- Keyboard switches - what kind of feel do you prefer when typing?
- Design - is a standard keyboard enough or do you prefer an ergonomic set-up?
- Colour - this includes backlights, particularly important for gamers
- Size - how much space do your hard working fingers need?
- Feel - is it comfortable to use?
For gamers, look out for:
- Mechanical switches
- Re-programmable keys
- Fast responding switches
- Multimedia keys
- Extra macro keys
- Audio scroll wheel
When setting up your keyboard at your workstation, start by resting your hands over the keys with both the keyboard legs up and down, and select which options feels most comfortable. Keep in mind that the tilted and split varieties are considered more ergonomic, but for a standard keyboard the adjustments need to be made by you.
The keyboard should be reasonably close to the edge of your desk, and there shouldn’t be any papers, plates, equipment or technology between you and it. Your elbows should sit comfortably by your body, and your shoulders should be relaxed and unstrained. A wrist pad is recommended to provide added comfort.
Watch how to properly set up your keyboard and mouse.
Unlike during the good old days, learning how to type and use a computer is like learning how to drive: pretty essential to modern living. Most people are confident and even quick typers, but many are still not typing at their most efficient, and are straining their wrists and hands in the process.
Improve your touch typing with this handy quiz!
Touch typing may feel awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it will lead to:
- More accurate typing
- Increased speed
- Higher levels of comfort
- Less strain and discomfort
- You looking like a total boss and being the envy of your non-touch typing colleagues
Don’t be that guy. Learn to touch type properly.
Don’t be fooled by its small size and cute appearance: a computer mouse can (and will) cause you great pain and frustration if you select the wrong one. The most important feature of any mouse...are you are for it? Is...
How it feels.
It seems obvious right? Well, perhaps, but many people focus too much on price, appearance and size, when comfort far outweighs these considerations. The way your hand rests over the mouse and your palm grip will make or break your experience, as will its sensitivity (DPI) and features of convenience such as scroll and click options. Like when purchasing a car, taking a mouse for a spin is essential.
Features to consider:
- Wireless versus wired
- Programmable buttons
- Grip style
- Trackpad alternative
- Ergonomic design
If you’re looking for a gaming mouse, check out this awesome guide to selecting the right one.
Table of comparison
|Wireless||JOYACCESS Wireless Keyboard||Compatible for PC and Mac
10 meter connection
3 adjustable DPI levels
|$128.15||Office that uses both Macs and PCs
Small or busy office
|$42.23||Home or corporate office||https://www.amazon.com.au/LOGITECH-MK270R-WIRELESS-KEYBOARD-MOUSE/dp/B0779QNQ7M/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1520827641&sr=8-6&keywords=keyboard+wireless|
|Ergonomic||Microsoft Wireless Sculpt Ergonomic||Ergonomic design
USB mouse and keyboard included
|$125.08||Those who spend long hours working
|Gaming||IVSO Semi Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||Mulit-coloured backlight
Mac and Windows compatible
|Gaming||Logitech G213 Prodigy Gaming Keyboard||4 x faster than standard models
Dedicated media controls
12 function keys
|Accessories||Keyboard Wrist Rest Pad||Comfortable rest pad
Memory foam design
|$13.98||Those who spend long hours working
|Bluetooth||Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Mouse||Bluetooth design
|$30||Home or corporate office||https://www.amazon.com.au/MICROSOFT-BLUETOOTH-MOBILE-MOUSE-3600/dp/B0746PB43T/ref=sr_1_19?ie=UTF8&qid=1520827727&sr=8-19&keywords=computer+mouse|
|Ergonomic||Anker 2.4G Wireless||Ergonomic design
Resolution optical tracking technology
Included next/previous buttons
Power saving modes
Those who spend long hours at work
|Gaming||NPET M20 RGP FPS Gaming Mice||Lightweight
Programmable mouse buttons
Professional gaming sensor
Those with specific gaming tastes
|Gaming||WicTsing Wireless Mouse||Wireless
Wide connection distance of up to 10 metres
12 month warranty
People working in offices, at home or in shared spaces
|Accessories||uxcell Desk Chair Extender Dual Purpose Computer Arm Support||Computer arm support
|$37.24||Those who spend long hours at work
|Accessories||Ergonomic Mouse Pad with Wrist Support||Smaller design
Smooth surface to enable easy tracking
|$9.98||Small or home offices||https://www.amazon.com.au/Ergonomic-Mouse-Pad-Wrist-Support/dp/B0785PSV15/ref=sr_1_56?ie=UTF8&qid=1520827874&sr=8-56&keywords=mouse|
- Choose a keyboard that is comfortable and appropriate for your work
- Select a mouse that suits your needs, by determining when you will most use it
- Test out your mouse before buying it to ensure it’s comfortable
- Follow one of our handy guides to setting up your keyboard for ergonomic comfort
Part 5: The Workstation
Once you've selected the right chair, a suitable desk and the perfect keyboard and mouse, you’re ready to set up a workstation. Although it might seem as simple and chucking the chair under the desk and throwing the keyboard on top for good measure, there is a lot more that goes into setting up a comfortable, ergonomic and well design workstation, and if you do it right the first time you’ll only ever have to make minor adjustments (unless you suddenly become a body builder. Then all bets are off).
So, what exactly should be on your desk?
What sits on your desk comes down to personal preference, but generally speaking, the less cluttered the space the more productive you'll be. Think about what you actually need to complete your daily tasks, and organise it all neatly within reach, but not too close as to impact your ability to type with ease. Anything outside of this should be stored in a draw or an alternate location.
An optional extra that can make a difference to your comfort at work, is the underappreciated footrest. It can relieve foot pressure, ease back and hip pain, and encourage you to sit correctly in your office chair. They are particularly useful if you have short legs and can even be used with adjustable desks!
Once you've adjusted your office furniture consider the following accessories for your workstation:
- Monitor arms
- USB hubs
- A lamp
- Extra screens
- A footrest
- A charging station
- A heater or fan
Your screen position and posture become key in determining where everything else should sit, so make sure you’ve followed the previous steps we’ve outlined before putting everything together.
When you’re ready to set up your computer screens, remember that each monitor should be:
- Positioned directly in front of you
- Glare free
- Tilted slightly upwards
- Be at an arm’s length distance
- Positioned so you do not have to tilt or bend
If you have dual monitors, they should be:
- As close to each other as possible
- Angled to create a semi-circle like shape
Find out what the most productive people have on their desks!
Table of comparison
Elements - 2 Person Workstation Double Sided
2 person desk with aluminium framed divider
10 year warranty
Size, colour and desk based screen options
Offices with teams working in close quarters
Busy offices requiring privacy
San Fran - Ergonomic 2 Person Workstation Bench
2 person workstation
Size, colour and screen options
Offices with teams who need extra space
Litewall 2000 - Leg 4 Person
4 person workstation
10 year warranty
Desktop and screen options
Call centres or offices with large teams
Elements - 4 Person Workstation Double Sided
4 person workstation
Acoustic desk screens
Silver aluminium legs
Screen and colour options
Team workspaces and busy offices
Litewall 2000 - 6 Person
6 person workstation
Size, desktop and screen options
Noise cancelling partition screens
Offices with large teams
San Fran - 6 Person Office Workstation Desk
6 person workstation
Size, desktop and screen options
10 year warranty
Spacious laminate desktop finish
- Find a workstation that fits your office needs by selecting the right amount of space and storage
- Set up your workstation to be ergonomically sound and comfortable before starting work
- Position your workstation in a part of the office that has some natural light but minimal glare
Part 6: Tips for the Office
You've set up your workstation and have all of the office furniture and accessories you need by now, so you're probably feeling pretty good about yourself (go you!). The last part of our complete guide goes over a few final considerations for a happy, positive and healthy office, as well as a few tips on how to make your work more efficient.
Let the music play!
Music in the office can completely change the atmosphere around you, helping you focus, relax, have fun or get motivated. For many workplaces, the preferred etiquette suggests that music be confined to headphones, but some have a regular stream of tunes playing throughout the day. If you work in an environment where calls are being regularly made or employees are often completing important and intricate work, cranking up the radio is not a good idea. If some music, perhaps in breakout spaces, is encouraged, however, consider the following awesome Spotify playlists:
- The Office Stereo: https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DWSDCcNkUu5tr?si=W-A0fGFXRz-HjXr35TTQXA
- Peaceful Piano: https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX4sWSpwq3LiO?si=o2FTCTqKR8iSFf3nOH8tag
- Music for Concentration: https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX3PFzdbtx1Us?si=dmDL78RVSBCJR0-h-M-WYw
- Gentle Piano Concertos: https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DWUqIzZNMSCv3?si=J2A3Z1G4RA-yXUZx6QvHGA
- Focus Now: https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DWZIOAPKUdaKS?si=7-3cQO-lT4q7HwiXFKsPkA
- Chilled Classical: https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DWUvHZA1zLcjW?si=HJu2v2mBSTSsxtiTXlxF1g
- Acoustic Blues: https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX2iUghHXGIjj?si=fnIOTnrtTbyExq75ptmIyg
Hygiene in the office
It's so important to have an office full of healthy staff and clean workstations and shared spaces, not only to create a pleasant work environment, but to get the most out of your staff. Illness in the office can have a huge impact on productivity, leading to:
- Loss of key staff for extended periods of time
- Illnesses and infections spreading
- A decrease in office morale
- An increase in errors and mistakes
- Financial loss for a company
Many offices have a culture of encouraging employees to skip lunch, work long hours and avoid taking time off, which can have major long-term impacts on the company. Pushing staff physical and emotionally will not yield the best results, and may even lead to personnel and business loss. Take care of your staff, lead by example and put into place preventative measures, including:
- Encouraging staff to clean shared spaces such as the kitchen and breakout rooms after use, by having antibacterial wipes and other easy to access cleaning products on hand
- Erecting signs around the office reminding staff of hygiene best practice, on topics such as hand washing, regularly wiping down desks and phones, and throwing away out of date food
- Having a regular fridge clean-out and providing labels for staff to mark their food
- Telling staff to take their sick leave if they are unwell to prevent the spread of infection, and to enable them to get better as quickly as possible
- Organising staff flu shots to take place in the office, at the cost of the company
- Providing healthy snacks for employees
- Participating in office initiatives such as fun runs and group yoga
- Providing staff with ergonomic workstations to avoid injury
- Offering counselling services to staff
Getting it done
If you've been working in an office for a while, you probably already have your own processes for each task you complete. But just in case you're doing things the hard way (god forbid), here are our favourite tips for working smarter, not harder.
For tips on how to maximise space in a small office, check out our handy infographic.
For a list of the must-have items every call centre needs, click here.
If you’re looking for some fun accessories to add to your fabulous workstation, check out this list of 35 cheap things to add to the office.
For more tips on ergonomic workstations, office comfort or to buy a high quality piece of office furniture, visit Jasonl.com.au.
1. Introduction to Office Ergonomics
National Institute of Technology Jaipur
2. Choosing e Right Angles For Keyboard Safe
The Body Literate
3. R U OK? The question you need to be asking your team members
4. Desk Chair Guide - Why & How To Buy An Office Chair
5. The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Computer Mouse
Logical Increments PC Building Guide
6. What is Ergonomics?
7. Hazards, incidents and emergencies
The University of Western Australia
8. Research and Statistics
The Department of Health
9. It Doesn't Matter How Much You Exercise If You Also Do This
10. Two hours of sitting cancels out 20 minutes of exercise, study finds