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Episode 80: The Small Things at Your Desk Can Cause Big Problems for Your Body


Hey desk jockeys welcome to another episode of The Modern Jockey where I try to bring to you everything health and wellness to try to make your workday, your work week and your work life easier. Today I’m going to dive into some of the ancillary things at your desk, footrests, and document holders; all the little things that sometimes we don’t think about.


***This is a podcast transcript, so please excuse the potential grammar and spelling errors***

What spawned this idea for me is, I recently gave an ergonomics webinar to a global company, and it was all about the ergonomics at the workstation. We’ve touched on some of these things, and people have asked some really good questions regarding this, and so I felt it would be a good episode to kind of tidy up a few things we don’t think about.Obviously, we think about the chair, we think about the desk and the monitor and the mouse and the keyboard but what about some of the other aspects of your workstation that could be contributing to some issues? That’s what we will be diving into today. But before we do, if you are local to the south Florida area and you need some help with musculoskeletal conditions or function and things like that you can check us out at to get information on receiving musculoskeletal care, rehab treatment, and chiropractic care. If you are a local company and you want us to speak you could also visit us there  or contact us, and we can do that for you, If you are more of a global company or outside of South Florida, and you’re interested in some of our programs you can go to, and we have all kinds of things from onsite care to onsite ergonomics and digital based ergonomics. So check us out there. Alright, let’s dive into some of these ancillary aspects of our workstation and what you really should do about it

I’m going to start out with the footrest. You know this is one of those things where it can be very, very instrumental in proper ergonomics especially if you don’t fall into that five-foot-eight to a six-foot-one ranger or so. Obviously, if you’re taller than six-foot-one, you’re not going to need a foot rest. A lot of times things are fit for that average height for most individuals, but if you fall below that, we may run into a problem. That’s usually where we find our first issue. If your desk doesn’t elevate or change heights, which most don’t and you don’t need it to, but if it doesn’t this is where the footrest might play a key part for you.What you want to do is fit yourself to the chair first, then, if your desk doesn’t elevate or lower, you want to fit yourself and your chair to the desk to have optimal ergonomics there. That’s where we could also potentially run into a problem. If you fit yourself properly to the chair, sit back using the backrest and pull your chair up to the desk, address the desk properly, and everything’s looking good but, you find your feet are dangling in the air, that is not ideal.Typically for the shorter and stature build, this could happen. Or for whatever reason, you have a uniquely high desk that doesn’t adjust that could be a problem as well. So that’s where a footrest could help you. Another thing to take into consideration is if you are female and wear high heels to work some days and some days you don’t, it’s just a reality that if you’re wearing heels and you’re sitting on your heels, you may not need the footrest that particular day. The high heels could give you that extra few inches or couple inches the days where you don’t you may need that footrest. Or you can opt to kick off the heels when you’re at your desk working and utilize the footrest.The footrest can be very affordable, doesn’t need to be anything fancy or crazy, but can help set you into proper ergonomics.


The next thing is the headset. If you find yourself to where you are using the computer…now if you’re on the phone, and you do it normally, and you’re not using the computer and the keyboard at the same time, not much of a big deal, but if you are on the phone a lot you should probably have a headset or if you find yourself utilizing the phone and the computer at the same time I highly recommend a headset, and that’s a big thing that a lot of people… it’s a lot better now than it used to be, it used to be a big issue now it’s not as bad. Most people that are on the phone quite often realize that, but consider getting a headset if you type a lot and you are on the phone.


Next one is a document holder. Okay, these are for folks that need to transcribe anything consistently or just sometimes from a document or series of documents or obviously reference those documents while you’re also typing and using the computer. One of the biggest problems we see is people looking down constantly at this document because it’s just flat on the desk and then they’re trying to type, so looking all the way down coming up, looking all the way down coming up, and that can pose a problem. So consider getting a document holder if you find yourself doing that considerably, so that’s another big one for you.


Another thing that I find is folks with catty-corner desks; those are the desks that have kind of an ‘L’ shape, they find themselves centered into the catty-corner part of it like right in the crevice there, the corner part. That can be very difficult for you and I want you to consider not to set yourself up that way because when you do that if you don’t have a keyboard tray, then it’s going to be hard to set your keyboard close enough to you because there’s a gap right. There’s that corner spacing that’s just air, and you have to place your keyboard too far from that usually, and it becomes a problem, and so we see people reaching too far and bending forward to use their keyboard, and that causes all kinds of issues. So if you have a catty-corner desk and your monitors are set up ideally in front of you as we’ve addressed in other episodes then you have a key tray, then you’re usually okay. But if you have the catty-corner, you don’t have a keyboard tray, and that’s going to be an issue. I would consider either getting a keyboard tray or adjusting your monitors and your whole self to where you’re addressing the one side of the L shape of the desk and able to function and fit yourself ergonomically better to that. Okay, so that’s the catty-corner desk issue we run into quite a bit.


The mouse I know we’ve had episodes on for sure, and we’ve discussed it a lot but another thing that always keeps popping up is getting that right side of neck and shoulder issue because of that mouse which we call the mousetrap, and you can look at… I think it was in one of the first five episodes we discussed the mousetrap, so you can go back and check that one out, but essentially if you’re using that mouse a lot on the right side you get this right-sided shrugging of the shoulder, and it’s subtle, and you’re overusing it, and over time it causes issues.So we do recommend for people proactively to put the mouse on the left-hand side. I know it seems weird and unique, but after a couple of weeks, you would get used to it. We’ve had people put the mouse on the right on Mondays and Tuesdays on the left and so on. We’ve also had times where people put the mouse on the right in the morning and then the left in the afternoon. Whatever works for you. You will get used altering the mouse by gaining more function on the left side, so I recommend you look into that.


Next one is the laptop. A lot of people bring in their laptops to work so they have a regular monitor, regular computer, and they’re also using a laptop. Try to get a laptop stand that the screen is high enough to where you’re not looking down at it. If you’re going to use that laptop a lot then I would recommend a wireless keyboard or anything that’s a separate keyboard from the monitor, so you’re not having to look down and reach for that keyboard. So try to use your laptop at your workstation almost as if it’s just a monitor and you set that monitor at a good ergonomic level, you know eyes to the top one-third of that screen, and then obviously using a keyboard that’s separate. It’s very easy to get. Again, all this stuff is extremely affordable, and the value is there because it’s going to help protect you physically so.


Alright the last one, which is a common one I saved for last, is the standup desk question and how to use that properly. You can reference episode seventy-three with Daniel Angeline or Episode forty-eight with the CEO of Vera desk, Jason McCann, where we dive deep into the standup options for the desk and how those are effective but have some pitfalls you need to look out for. There’s a lot of things that are positive about it, but there are some negatives. A study recently came out from the British Journal of Sports Recovery, and it was the… the name of it is ‘The associations of occupational standing with musculoskeletal symptoms a systematic review with Meta-analysis,.’ It talked about some of the effects of prolonged standing can have on you and can cause a lot of issues. So one of the pitfalls we see with the standing desk is people standing too much, and that is something you want to make sure that you’re not doing.You want to make sure that you’re alternating, you’re sitting and standing and not standing for too long. I recommend listening to those episodes it can be variable on who you know how much standing for who, getting an anti-fatigue mat, comfortable shoes. And again, going back to some of the pitfalls as people standing with uncomfortable shoes or standing on hard surfaces without the fatigue mat, not raising the desk high, you want to make sure you set up your ergonomics well with the height of raising the desk for sure and then you don’t want to stand too long.I typically recommend, again, standing in the morning and sitting in the afternoon, and go from there. I wouldn’t do all day Monday, I wouldn’t do all day any day, some people are doing two-three hours chunks of time, some people are just letting their body speak to them right, it’s like ‘yeah I get a little uncomfortable after a couple of hours or an hour and a half of standing,’ so it doesn’t have to be cookie cutter,you just have to listen to your body. It might be every hour; it might be every couple hours and a lot of times those stand up desks are very easy to manipulate. So it’s not like it’s this drudgery to change so that you can do it every hour.You just have to find that sweet spot for yourself.


Alright, that is the little ancillary aspects of the desk that I wanted to address in this episode to make sure you mind those as well. We get pigeonholing to just the chair, the desk, the monitor, keyboard, mouse but there are other aspects of the workstation that you need to address.So my challenge for you this week is to make those changes. I hope you have a great week at the office and I will be with you next week.