You sit at your desk for hours on end. Shouldn’t it be comfortable? You don’t have to go out and buy a new desk, chair, and other expensive gear to make your workspace more ergonomic—here are a few cheap accessories that can go a long way.
Desks are weird. Ideally, you’d sit with your feet flat on the floor, with your elbows at a 90-ish degree angle typing on your keyboard. But unless you’re a very specific height, with very specifically sized arms and legs, the average off-the-shelf desk won’t fit you quite properly. In fact, even as an average-height guy at 5’9”, I find most desks are too tall—they’re great for writing, but terrible for typing. While adjustable desks like IKEA’s Bekant series can help you find the right height, you don’t need to go spend $200 (or more) on a new desk—just grab an add-on keyboard tray.
There are clamp-on versions for about $50 that’ll work without damaging your desk, but if you have the ability to screw one into the underside—sorry, glass desk owners—you can grab this one from Fellowes for only $25, and it’ll be a sturdier, smoother tray. And if neither of those quite appeal to you, look around Amazon—there are a ton of different sizes and styles. This one even has adjustable height and angle, which is even more ergonomic, since your keyboard is most comfortable when tilted away from you.
The other half of that equation—the “feet flat on the floor” part—can be similarly tough with a tall desk. If you find that, after adjusting your chair’s height to fit your desk, that your legs aren’t quite comfortable, a hinged footrest like this $16 one from AmazonBasics can be great. Stick it under your desk so your legs are bent at a 90 degree angle or greater, and you won’t have to worry about your legs dangling uncomfortably (or awkwardly resting on your heels). If that still isn’t comfortable, you might try this height-adjustable one, or this cushioned one—though I highly recommend a rocking footrest since it helps keep your blood flowing. Not that you shouldn’t get up and take breaks anyway.
Sitting all day is killing you, for a myriad of reasons. But if you’re struggling with back pain, it’s possible your chair isn’t doing enough to support you when you sit. While a high-quality, highly-adjustable office chair can do wonders for your spine, there are also ways to augment your current chair if you’re on a budget. A mesh lumbar support like this one, for example, can strap onto your chair and provide much-needed lower back support that forces you to sit up straight—and at $17, there’s no reason not to give it a try. This one is slightly taller but comes in a two-pack, or you can also grab a memory foam lumbar cushion for $25. While I personally find foam to be too firm, some folks may find them preferable to the mesh version.
Now that you have your desk and chair in the optimal position, it’s time to look at your computer’s display. Ideally, you should be looking straight forward, and the top of your monitor should be around eye level. If your monitor doesn’t have an adjustable stand (or you’re using a laptop), that isn’t likely to be the case. For external desktop monitors, you could buy a stationary riser like this one for $25, but I recommend an adjustable arm like this for the same price (or this one, if you have two monitors).
It clamps on to the back of your desk and you get the height, swivel, and tilt adjustments of more expensive monitors without having to spend a couple hundred dollars on a new one—and you can set it right at eye level. If you’re using a laptop, things are a bit trickier, since ideally you’d use a laptop stand to get the display high enough, then use an external keyboard and mouse. Using a laptop at a table is just awful from an ergonomic perspective, and mimicing a desktop is going to get you a much better experience.
This one may seem a little weird, but hear me out: I hate having to reach all over my desk to get stuff. It’s annoying, it’s uncomfortable, and if I’m being honest, I knock stuff over a lot when I do it. So, in an effort to keep my desk a little cleaner and keep the important stuff close, I’ve started stuff to the underside of my desk using 3M Command Strips.
USB ports too hard to reach? Stick a hub under your mousepad. Headphone amp sliding around on your desk every time you plug in? Stick that volume knob a little closer. I even put an SD card reader under the computer tower because my PC case doesn’t have one built in. If you’re feeling really handy you could build a USB hub into the desk itself, but a few Command Strips on the underside work just as well in a pinch. Trust me, it’ll change your life.