Ergonomics on the Cheap

I don’t know why I waited so long to look into the ergonomics of my home office (perhaps is the cheesiness of the ergonomics warnings at work), but when I started paying attention I decided that I needed immediate action.

For instructions, check out my how-to article on InfoBarrel on how to improve the ergonomics of your home office. Here is the detail on how I did it.

Part 1: The Chair

I’ve never purchased an expensive office chair, so every couple of years my chair is in poor shape and needs to be replaced. A quality chair might last longer and be worth repairing, but it’s hard to make it past the sticker price. All the same, I recommend checking out a dedicated office chair store to make the comparison, at least to know what’s out there.

So, after owning my current office chair for a few years, I realized that it has always been awful for my posture. The pan (the part you sit on) was way too long. Because of that, I could never sit with my feet on the ground and my back against the back of the chair at the same time. That meant my options include sitting with my feet on the ground but my back curved to reach the back, or to sit with my back on the back of the chair and my feet in some other position.

I recently removed the armrests to prevent me from leaning on my elbows as much, but the seat depth was still a problem. So, on a trip to the big-box office store, I happened to find a chair that felt comfortable. It was even cheaper on their web site, so I went for it. After a few days to let the factory-fresh chemical smell dissipate, I moved it into my office. So far, it has been comfortable, and I’m learning to sit with my back straight again.

The old chair on the left has a much larger seat. The armrests have been removed.

Price for new chair online: $99

Part 2: The Monitor

When I purchased my new 24″ flat panel monitor, I needed a new arrangement. My old monitor had an adjustable height stand, but the new one did not. Even worse, the new one wobbles when I hammer on the keyboard. Time to mount to something more stable!

The new monitor with the provided stand


Obviously the larger monitor has a potential to make the office more comfortable, as I can place it a bit further from me and still see well. This one jumped out at me when I was looking for 22″ monitors, and I was excited to get it since it has the same vertical size as the 19″ 4:3 monitor that it was replacing. This one is very inexpensive for a 24″ monitor, and mine has been performing well and has no dead pixels. Check it out here.

I’ve had great luck with monoprice.com for mounts, cables, and other things that seems to have outrageous markups elsewhere. I selected one that had 3-way adjustable arms, and should be installing it soon. My hope is that the mutli-part swinging arm will let me adjust the monitor to the optimal distance from me. Given that my desk is 29″ deep, there is a minimum distance between myself and the wall.

Monitor mounted on the swing arm assembly

Price for monitor wall mount: under $30.

I’ll post more details and pictures of the mount installation soon.

Part 3: The Desk

Knowing the right height for everything else, it’s time for the desk. My work desk is 29.375″, while my home desk is 28.5″. Neither one seem right for my chair height – I’d prefer the desk be a few inches shorter – somewhere closer to 26″ or 27″.

Desks are commonly available between 28″ and 30″, so I’m somewhat out of luck there. I looked at adjustable desks and tables, but they are generally over $1000, most likely because big companies buy them to avoid work strain lawsuits. Cheaper alternatives such as adjustable height folding tables get awful reviews about slamming down to the lowest height setting – hardly desirable given that I will use this for my daily work and may put things such as computer peripherals and books on the table.

My plan is to take the dremel to my table and remove 2″ of the legs. If successful, that will give me a 26.5″ height. I’m not very worried about the table, as it’s a 72″w x 29″d x 28.5″h folding table and hardly an heirloom. However, if I can fix it for just a few hours of my time, I won’t have to shell out a lot of money for a desk I only like a little.

The table leg – lower part is straight and can be shortened

Expected price to modify desk: $0

Conclusion

With just a few hours of my time and less than $130, I upgraded my home office to be much more comfortable.

More posts coming soon with details of the monitor mount and the table leg modifications.

Update:
Monitor Mount
Table Modification

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About ProjectJourneyman

I am a software engineer that escaped the cubicle world at a large company to go solo with Android app development. My attention to detail and quality applies both to my apps and to my research on how to make money with Android. Now that I have the freedom to work on my own projects, I am documenting my efforts in the hopes that it will help other current or aspiring independent Android developers get the income they desire.

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