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Tame your Workspace

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Like it or not, chances are you spend most of your waking life at a desk. Eight hours a day, five days a week – it adds up to serious time and it can lead to some serious health problems.

Most desk setups are automatically dismal affairs, with little to no thought given to ergonomics, psychology and productivity. Here’s how you can fix that.

For the no-frills desketeer

If you’re looking for the most straightforward ways to make desk life better, focus on one thing: your chair. Of all the changes you can make to your desk-ridden habits, picking the right chair and using it properly will confer the greatest benefits. We’re going to assume you have a good office chair. But even if you don’t, there are some simple steps you can take to make sure you’re sitting properly, courtesy of Lifehacker.

First, set the height of the chair so that your forearms form a 90º angle with your upper arms when you rest them on the desk. The idea is to stop your wrists from bending – a sure way to get carpal tunnel syndrome – when you use the mouse and keyboard. Next, as tempting as it is, don’t treat your office chair like an easy chair: set the backrest so you can’t slouch in it. Finally, you’ll want to put your monitor on a stand so you can look straight ahead at a point five to seven centimetres from the top.

Simple as that.

For the power user

Taking shortcuts gets a bad rap, but it doesn’t have to equate to cutting corners. If you like to get things done in the shortest amount of time possible (and hey, who doesn’t?), setting up an ecosystem of shortcuts is your answer to maximising efficiency.

First step: don’t ditch your tried and trusted keyboard shortcuts, but do get piHotKeys (Android) or Actions (iPad). These hotkey managers tether your tablet to your computer and render unto you a suite of shortcut super powers for common tasks that lie beyond the stretch of your average keyboard arrangement. You’ll wonder how you ever did without them.

If you do a lot of repetitive typing, you might also want to look into some text expansion software. Phrase Express (Windows) and Text Expander (OS X) can dramatically speed up your keyboard blitzing by expanding abbreviations into full words and a large number of more complex constructions.

On your marks, anyone?

For the escapist

Hate being tied to your desk? We feel for you. But don’t despair: with a few simple additions to your workspace arsenal you can make it a lot easier to withstand. For one, get yourself a pot plant or three. No jokes: research shows that people who have desk plants are better able to work than those who don’t. If you can’t be out in nature, may as well bring nature to you.

Next, get yourself a really good pair of earphones. Got some already? Now instead of listening to your favourite work tunes, consider trying ambient noise – there are apps offering everything from the sound of rain outside to the background hum of a Star Trek ship. This might strike you as at least a little odd, but there is evidence that moderate levels of ambient noise boost creativity. This Fast Company article does a good job of breaking down the right apps for the job, and serves the science backing this practice up.

No reason not to give it a bash, we say.

For the fitness-inclined desk jockey

At the very least you should be taking regular short breaks from all that tap-tapping to stretch your back, hands and shoulders. If you want to go the extra, though, you could try the whole standing-at-your-desk thing. But do yourself a favour and don’t lock yourself into standing – it can be just as bad for your health as sitting down for too long. Instead get a desk that you can adjust between seated and standing positions, and switch it up regularly.

Not enough for you? Okay hot shot, maybe you’re in the market for a treadmill desk. We can’t quite shake the term ‘hamster wheel’ from our minds, but there is some solid research backing up the habit. Here’s another fine Fast Company article with a deep dive into the studies behind active desks.

If a treadmill is taking things a tad far, you could always try the Desk Cycle – literally a pair of pedals you slide under your desk.

Your turn (and a chance to win)

Have any of our tips worked for you? Do you have any of your own to add? Let us know in the comments. And if you think you’ve got a spot-on desk setup, we want to see it. Post your #HLDesks pic this week to stand a chance of winning your own stylish Campo Marzio desk hamper and a 12-month HL digital subscription valued at R3000!

Go on, then.

 

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