Recently, I met with Erinn Dailey of Humanscale, a company that
manufactures office essentials built to keep the body in healthy
alignment. Dailey had just set up a client of mine with an
ergonomically-correct computer station complete with a buttery faux
leather chair and a massaging foot rest. I never knew ergonomics
could look so good.
Angela Hoxsey: OK, here’s my desk. Where do you start?
Erinn Dailey: First we measure the desk. The standard desk is 29
inches high, which is perfect if you are 6 foot 3 inches.
Humanscale products make the standard desk work for everyone else.
The chair is crucial, then we add a keyboard tray, adjust the
monitor height and add some amazing task lighting.
AH: What kinds of things should we look for in a desk chair?
ED: Start by making sure your feet are firmly on the floor.
Don’t raise your chair to solve a high desk problem, you’ll end up
on your tip toes or crossing your legs, both of which impede blood
AH: Is the famously ugly Aeron Chair a good one?
ED: Not from our perspective, since it lacks a seat pan depth
control, an adjustable backrest height, and uses high stretch mesh,
which provides less support than foam backrests or alternative mesh
designs. It’s also quite complicated to adjust and use, so it’s
rarely adjusted properly for most users. The Aeron chair has become
a status symbol however, and some people continue to love the
AH: A lot of people are sitting on those big exercise balls. Are
those ergonomically correct?
ED: Absolutely not. The claim is that you’ll strengthen your
core musculature throughout the day with the constant effort to
stay seated on the ball. Over the course of an eight-hour work day
it’s really tough on the body to sit that way. Stability balls are
best left at the gym and used as part of an exercise regimen, not
as a replacement for an adjustable task chair.
AH: What is the most common mistake people make when setting up
ED: Monitor placement. People place their monitors too high, too
low, too far, too close. It’s an easy fix. They should be
positioned about an arm’s length away from the user with the top of
the monitor at or just below eye level.
Keyboard placement is another common mistake. With the keyboard
positioned on top of the desk, you’re forced to lean forward to
type, which puts you into a ‘computer hunch’ and takes you away
from any benefit you’ll get from your chair’s backrest. So, having
an articulating keyboard support is critical. It allows the
keyboard to hover just above your lap, so you can lean back in your
chair while you type.
AH: I noticed my forearms and hands tingle if I write at my
computer for very long.
ED: Exactly, that is from the contact stress of resting your
forearms on the edge of your desk while you type — you’re putting
pressure on the ulnar nerve, which is in the crease of the
AH: How long do you have to sit at a poorly set-up desk before
you start feeling the ill effects?
ED: Discomfort can set in for some people after just an hour of
computer use. Injury rates among intensive computer users tend to
be quite low, less than two percent, whereas discomfort tends to
be quite high, more than 50 percent. Of course, you want to be
proactive and take care of the discomfort before it becomes chronic
AH: What is the worst set-up you’ve ever come across?
ED: Well, we’ve seen it all, as I’m sure you have as an
organizer. I’d say the worst case was someone working from a
beanbag chair on the floor with the keyboard in her lap and the
monitor up on a 30” desk. Talk about neck strain!
AH: Is there a tool you offer that people wouldn’t usually think
of in terms of ergonomics?
ED: A lot of times people don’t consider the lighting at their
desk to be that important, since the computer monitor is lit.
Lighting also needs to be tailored to the individual — we need a
lot more light at age 50 than we do at 25. Also, you need to be
able to easily adjust the position of the light for various tasks.
It makes a huge difference in a work area’s ergonomics — all of a
sudden eyestrain and headaches are a thing of the past.
AH: How much does it cost, on average, for someone to get their
desk ergonomically correct?
ED: The chair is the most expensive piece of the puzzle, but the
other elements are quite affordable. It is definitely an
investment—your readers can check out our website,
www.humanscale.com, for more information.
Lots of changes for the better can be made for free — stop
crossing your legs at your desk, find a chair that allows you to
plant your feet firmly on the floor or get a little foot rest, and
get your monitor up to eye level and at a comfortable distance.
AH: Erinn, thanks for all this great info and for letting me
test the gorgeous aubergine faux suede Freedom chair. It just went
to the top of my Christmas wish list!