Ergonomic tips from over-full-time programmer

A quote:

5. Big monitor and big text :link:

A lot of the ergonomics is just about minimizing stress on certain parts of your body that you use a lot. With monitor, it’s certainly good to have a big one or multiple ones. You don’t want to lean down to look at your laptop’s tiny screen. If you use two monitors, make sure to set them up in a way that your default and most common position is looking forward, neither left nor right. Looking sideways for long periods of time is problematic, and you want to avoid it as much as you can.

I also recommend setting your font sizes big and zoom on websites. It might seem pointless if you can read the text already, but it has implications on how you move your body and where you build stress - especially neck and back. If you lean closer to screen often, that’s a big red flag. Also, your eyes and brain has to work harder to resolve smaller text. That’s just wasting energy you could otherwise put into something more meaningful.

Obligatory note about brightness and blue light: I recommend always setting your monitor to the least brightness you can tolerate without squinting or leaning forward (balance it with the previous point), that’ll be easier on your eyes. You also want the screen to fade to red in the evening - some computers do that automatically, I use f.lux. Again, I recommend bumping up the redness as high as you can tolerate, I certainly feel it’s more pleasant to use computer in the evening that way.


One point I disagree with is “Ergonomic chairs don’t really work”. I’ve owned a Steelcase Leap chair for 13 years or so – it is amazing. It is still in excellent shape and I can sit in it all day with no discomfort or fatigue. Now, I stand most of the day, but for years I sat in that chair many hours every day. This is a very different experience than cheaper office chairs. I also tried a Herman Miller Aeron before I got the Leap as they were all the rage at the time – it was not comfortable. Everyone is built different so there is no one size fits all, but if you are a trim build, then the Leap may fit you. It is worth every penny – many times over. Your chair/desk and computer monitor(s) are the two most important pieces of equipment for many engineers.

At my previous job we had Steelcase Leap chairs in the first building I worked in. I really liked them. When we moved buildings we were not allowed to take the chairs with us and the company bought new Steelcase chairs, but they were different and not nearly as comfortable for me.

Once I got my own office about 2 years ago, I bought a refurbished Steelcase Leap for about $350 and it’s been superb! I spend probably 8-10 hours a day in it and rarely am I ever uncomfortable.

2 jobs ago I had a sit/stand desk. I did like standing, but only for some types of activities on my computer. The desks we had were pretty good but still did wobble somewhat. Monitor wobble drives me crazy. I’d like to get a nice sit/stand desk again but it’s just not in the budget yet since I have my Leap chair and a nice solid desk already.

Currently I have two computer workstations – one at my standing desk, and one at a table for sitting. This is not ideal, but works for now since I have plenty of space. Many people use adjustable desks that have a motor in them. One other option that I saw at one of my customer’s office is to have fixed standing desk but have a stool height chair to sit in. Steelcase makes a Leap stool:


So wondering if that would work to sit at a standing desk …

Good point about monitor wobble – most adjustable desks probably have some of that unless you get something really heavy and expensive. But, a Leap Stool is not cheap either. My standing desk (a bit of mess right now) quite solid having a top of laminated 2x4’s on a heavy base.

Stools that allow some motion is also an interesting idea:

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