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Straighten up: Ergonomic tips for spending hours at your desk

Shutterstock_1096655930 - CopyIf you’re sitting at your desk while reading this blog post, it could wind up being a real pain in your neck.

Is your desk setup uncomfortable? Do you have a twinge in your back, neck, wrists or fingers? These aches and pains could be related to the way you’re sitting or the positioning of your office furniture.

Since it’s busy season, you’re spending some quality time (likely 60+ hours a week) at your desk. Why not make sure your setup is ergonomically sound? You can do this without difficulty. The investment will be well worth it, not only for your health but also for your overall well-being.

The goal is to create an environment where your body is in a neutral position that doesn’t cause added tension — you have enough mental strain as it is right now. And in case you were wondering, flopping down on your sofa with a laptop doesn’t qualify as ‘ergonomic.’ But below are some tips that are.

Let’s start with your office chair. While sitting, your feet should be resting on the floor or a footrest, your knees should be level with your hips, your thighs should be parallel to the ground and your lower and upper back should feel supported.

If you experience back pain, try adjusting your chair’s backrest and/or prop a pillow or lumbar support cushion between your chair and your lower back.

There’s an abundance of stresses to cause you headaches during busy season. Don’t let your monitor be one of those. Sitting too close to your monitor can contribute to eyestrain, which if left unchecked, will leave you with a nasty headache. This adjustment should help: When seated in your chair, your monitor should be an arm’s length distance away and the top of your screen should be at eye level. If you have multiple screens, make sure you can view them easily. If it’s difficult to comfortably see the screen, consider enlarging the text size on your computer.   

Did you know that the recommended keyboard height is two inches above your knees? When typing, your arms should be at or below elbow level and your wrists should be in a neutral position (not tilted up or down). To help achieve this setup, you may consider installing a downward sloping keyboard tray or using an ergonomic keyboard.

Take a moment to check in on your mouse. Do you find yourself reaching for it? If so, bring it closer. Ensure that your wrist is supported. To give one wrist a break, alternate hands using the mouse. Some may find it helpful to use a mousepad with a wrist rest or swapping a traditional mouse out for an ergonomic one. Ergonomic mice can be a game changer.     

Adjusting your workstation setup can improve your comfort level and your overall outlook. In addition to tweaking your physical environment, remember to take breaks throughout the day. Sitting — even at an ergonomically sound desk — and staring at a computer screen for several hours on end is not healthy. Find a break schedule that works for you and stick to it. Learn how to take more effective timeouts from this blog post.

And if you want to make things easier on yourself mentally, the AICPA has created a tax season resources hub to help you power through this busy season. There you’ll find checklists, tools, practice management guides and even a busy season fun calendar to make things easier. Go check it out — after you’re done with your work space makeover.    

Getting your desk setup right is just one of the many concerns you might have if you’re a sole practitioner or work in a small firm. For resources on managing your firm, check out the Private Companies Practice Section and visit our small firm resource page at aicpa.org/smallfirm, featuring technical guidance to help you manage your practice and plan for your firm’s future.

Alexis Rothberg, Communications Manager, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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