Lessons Learned From My Home Office Setup

office ergonomic failure Lessons Learned From My Home Office Setup

Office ergonomics set ups require a conscience decision about what’s important. I learned this lesson the hard way when I started working from a home-office little over three years ago.

My initial home office set up was a complete failure. And within as little as one week my body was telling me that I needed to make adjustments. My arms were hurting. My back was hurting. I needed to make a change.

With that change, I had to decide what was most important regarding my home office. Like everyone else, I had dreams of a gorgeous Mohogany L-shaped desk, with lateral file cabinets. I also had dreams of fancy computer equipment, a large flat screen computer screen, and accessories to boot.

But I chose, and ended up choosing wisely, that none of that is important when it comes to working comfortably in a home office environment.

I didn’t choose to invest the thousands of dollars in a fancy mahogany desk, simply to stroke my ego. What I did choose was to focus on getting set up the best I could with the resources that I had.

That meant I was pulling on my years of experience in ergonomics to make sure that I didn’t fall victim like so many others I’ve seen in my career from a shabby office setup.

That meant that I continued to work from my makeshift desk, which was our card table from our storage closet that was hardly ever used.

The dreams of my fancy lateral file cabinets were quickly replaced by harsh reality by using a Rubbermaid system of two drawers. That doubled as my printer stand.

For my office chair, I pulled out a chair from storage, that was 15 to 20 years old. Needless to say it did not have hardly any adjustments to make it comfortable.

I was determined to “make do”.

So I started slow, and was able to convince my employer to provide a stand for my laptop along with a wireless mouse and keyboard to allow my arms to rest more comfortably, my wrists to be more comfortable, and my monitor be to be in front of me instead of constantly looking down at my laptop screen.

That simple investment of less than $100 for my laptop and wireless accessories, made a significant difference for my neck, arms, wrists, and hands. I was beginning to work more comfortably at my full-time office job. icon smile Lessons Learned From My Home Office Setup

But, as one who experience back pain and back aches for the last 20 years since high school baseball, I knew I needed to do something about my chair.

Frankly, my office chair sucked. And I quickly realized that everyone that I had helped in my previous work as an ergonomics consultant that had a similar chair was extremely frustrated.  The chair that I had simply was not made to sit in for any extended period of time.

Knowing how much an ergonomic chair costs, I decided to do with anybody else did, and improvise.

So, I pulled out our exercise ball, or some may call a Swiss ball, from my basement. It was not getting used much for exercise, so I brought it up to our home office which is located in our loft. That seemed like a logical idea…

I tried it for several days, but realized that the exercise ball does not have armrests, and it does not have a back support.

Armrests and back support are probably in the top 3-4 items that are absolute essentials to have an a office chair.

I occasionally tried kneeling on either one me or both knees, but that created problems as well. It certainly was not comfortable for my knees. But there also was no back support while kneeling, nor any armrests for supporting my arms. Kneeling was just not an option to work more comfortably.

So I went back to my 15 to 20-year-old office chair, and did my best to modify it so that I could get by until I could afford a quality office ergonomic chair.

This included making my own cheater roll out of towels to enhance the lumbar support of the chair. That provided significant relief for my lower back discomfort, aches, and pains. To find out how to do this yourself, click here.

I also put towels in the seat of the office chair. In other words, I put a towel down where I sat.  I made sure the towel was a little thicker towards the back of the chair versus the front, which created somewhat of a Wedge effect. This simple adjustment was intentional to create a forward tilt in my pelvis. This minor adjustment to my pelvis, a forward tilt, helped to position my back in the proper position, which further helped to reduce any aches and pains in my lower back.

This allowed me to sit more comfortably for longer periods of time.

Those two adjustments were really all that I could do with my 15 to 20-year-old office chair. The only manufactured adjustments on the chair were able to raise and lower the seat itself, and reclining back.

The final strategy that was able to allow me to limp along until I landed on an office ergonomic chair nearly a year later was simple position changes. I was able to find locations in my home where I could stand and work for periods of time, and then return to my home office. I also implemented strategies to get up and move about anytime I was on the phone, walking continuously while I talked. Not only was this good for my back, but also injected more life and enthusiasm in my voice when I was talking to others.

Luckily, I was able to make ends meet and purchase the office economic chair of choice within one year.

The chair I purchased is unique, and very progressive in regards to originality with office ergonomic chairs. And it’s the only one that I recommend to anyone that is considering an office chair, whether that be for home or for work. If you have to sit for any period of time, or have ever experienced any low back pain, or even neck pain or arm pain, this is the chair for you.

It’s called a Swing Chair, and you can see and purchase one here. I do receive a commission for any chairs purchased from my website, and if you decide to do so, I thank you. But don’t feel that you have to – I want you to make the best choice for you.

If you have questions about how to possibly modify your chair to make ends meet until you can afford a proper office ergonomic chair, shoot me an email and send me a picture. I’d be happy to help you with suggestions.

What office chair do you currently use?  What’s the pros and cons of it? Would you recommend it to any of your friends?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/spdebump/8253290190/”>spdebump</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>


  1. [...] I am partial to having the appropriate office chair. You can read why here. It’s much more important to have your office chair not only selected, but also set up [...]

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