4 Tools To Increase Your Productivity, Efficiency, and Comfort
It’s easy to get distracted at work. Every tab on your browser, every new post on your social media feed is a rabbit hole just beckoning for your attention. There are chores to be done, bills to be paid, demands from dependents to be met, be they two-legged or four. The last thing we need piled onto that? Physical discomfort.
Ergonomics isn’t just about physical ease, though. Technically, the word refers to the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. The three major areas address physical, cognitive, and organizational aspects. But in the decade past, it’s become commonly associated with only the physical part — synonymous with expensive, newfangled and sometimes fad-like or impractical office equipment designed around how the human body is assumed to naturally move, or to prevent injury from repetitive motions or stress.
But coming back to the root of the word, ergonomics is a critical part of increasing output. You can do more, faster, and better when you’re comfortable, uninhibited by discomfort that can make you antsy or unfocused.
Here are some of the greatest workspace innovations that have helped enhance my focus, productivity, and comfort. I think they will help you, too.
1Convertible Standing Desks
The 29-inch industry-standard height for desks is “sort of arbitrary,” says Chassie founder Andrew Daines, which is why he was quick to expand into sit-to-stand designs as his brand grew.
“One of the best ways to improve productivity and reduce stress is by moving and avoiding a sedentary workday. We often get so engrossed in our responsibilities that we forget to move and breathe. Something as simple as a height-adjustable desk allows for more frequent movement, such as standing, during the workday, which can boost physical and mental health and increase productivity,” says Chad Severson, CEO of Ergotron, a company that creates ergonomic office equipment.
Personally, I have tight hip flexors and sitting in one position for extended periods of time causes a lot of strain for me. The “rise” of standing desks has been such a boon, and I love my Flexispot ClassicRiser Standing Desk Converter. It’s wide enough for my two monitors, which I angle in for a bigger, more comfortable workspace, and has a sturdy keyboard tray that keeps my hands from a numbing upward angle. This is a quick fix to turn any deep-enough desk into a sit/stand one.
Another favorite is my Ergotron Mobile Desk, which allows me to migrate with my work … and another monitor, since the depth of the surface lets me keep a wide 27-incher permanently on this surface along with my laptop. This stays in the living room and floats from my wingback to my sofa as I adjust it to sit or stand. One of my favorite things about it, though, is the built-in convenience of a cupholder to remind me — and make it easy and spill-proof — to stay hydrated. Convenience and self-care is all part of ergonomics, too, after all!
Newcomer Chassie is another ergo-forward brand to have on your radar, especially if mindfulness and organization is part of your ergonomic priority list. These 25- to 45-inch-high desks come in gorgeous fine artist-designed graphics, customizable color edges, and widths that can be cut to your space. But most headline-worthy: These stunning made-to-order sit-to-stand desks are finished with dry-erase material, allowing you to keep your notes right before you and doodle as you need to find your center again. In fact, the Daydream design even has simple illustrations printed on already for you to color for minutes of mindfulness.
Says the maker, Daines, “The design thinking behind Chassie's Remarkable Wood desktop surfaces is to bring a mix of play and productivity to what would otherwise be a boring work surface. Our customers are evenly split as to whether having their desktop serve as whiteboard is best for jotting work notes or doodling, but in both cases, what we are hearing is that this feature makes the desk feel more like an extension of themselves — more like a trusty notebook than just a place to put your stuff.”
And as for that “stuff,” it comes with the option to fully equip with a floating shelf and a tech package that includes invisible charging, two USB and three power outlets; an electronic, no-effort raising function with no preset stops is standard.
2Setting Up a Good Foundation
Whether you’re sitting or standing, it’s important to have a firm foot on the ground to keep you safely anchored to your task. If you’re standing, it’s especially important to invest in an anti-fatigue desk mat, because shifting your weight throughout the day can only go so far to alleviate the pressure over time.
My Small Neo-Flex Floor Mat by Ergotron has made a tremendous difference in how much standing I can happily do, and I appreciate its light weight and beveled edges. The first feature makes it easy to move out of the way when I shift to sitting while remaining stably in place even on carpet, and the sloping sides prevent tripping. Add a soccer ball for hip rotations — a recommendation of functional fitness professional and coach, Tristan Phillips — and you’re building on both your mobility and stability even as you’re typing away as I am right now.
When your feet need a break, it’s hard to get a better deal than the FlexFit Hyken Mesh Task Chair, which now comes in a gorgeous bold red wine color that wasn’t available when I bought mine years ago. My black one is still serving me well, though, with a springy, breathable mesh seat and back that keeps you cool and supported and has resisted any kind of sagging for over five years now. The high-tensile mesh is my favorite material for absorbing pressure and the adjustable lumbar cushion behind it is customizable to the inch. It also has a deep recline for stretching, waterfall seat edge to eliminate digging, and an adjustable headrest to help take the weight off your head, if not your shoulders.
If you want something a little less bulky and a little more trendy, the DRAGONN Kneeling Chair has been garnering praise in ergonomic guides across the internet. For those who are unfamiliar, these contraptions are designed to have users sitting at an angle that reduces strain and pressure on your back, encourages improved posture, and strengthens your core. Thick cushions that surpass those of their competitors are one of the (literally) biggest initial attractions of this model, and it’s height-adjustable to fit standard 29-inch desks and most standing desks. Casters make it movable, so you can tuck it away easily when not in use. The design is still a bit foreign and a bit clinical (read: does not look out of place in a chiropractor’s office), but switching between standing and kneeling could be just the movement pattern you need to feel comfortable and therefore less distracted in your workspace.
While we’re talking about movement and comfort, we can’t skip small changes that can make a huge difference. One of them is blue light glasses, which work to filter that specific type of light that emanates off the screens we all seem to be glued to, both on and off the clock. This type of light creates its own type of glare; strains and fatigues your eyes; block melatonin production and prolong your doze-off start time; and can potentially damage your retinas from prolonged exposure. Yikes, right?
The good thing is, many brands have developed lenses to help combat the effects of too much screen time, and stylishly. I got my first affordable pair on EyeBuyDirect and keep those upstairs while my new pair by watch brand MVMT stays docked to my office desk. Both offer trendy-colored frames and a variety of shapes; MVMT offers various widths for face shapes that are small, medium, or large for a more comfortable and again, less distracting fit, as well as the ability to burn that midnight oil just a wee bit longer.
Finally, my absolute most helpful armor against work environment distraction? Don’t laugh, but it’s the Comfy Dream.
In general, office spaces are too cold for most women. According to a study conducted by Professor Tom Chang of University of Southern California and Agne Kajackaite of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, it has been scientifically proven that being kept distractingly cold (e.g., temperatures as low as 61 degrees Fahrenheit — only a few degrees lower than the usual 68) actually and factually impact the performance of women in the workplace. "As the temp went up, women did better on math and verbal tasks, and men did worse," Chang says. "And the increase for women in math and verbal tasks was much larger and more pronounced than the decrease in performance of men."
In other words, conventional ergonomics are completely standing in our way.
So yes, it’s an oversized wearable blanket with a kangaroo pocket and a hood. Yes, I work from home and can make this my uniform. But with the Dream line’s designs and bulk are more suited to an office environment in general than the company’s previous Sherpa-style lined velour. The Dreams are lighter, softer, non-pilling plush microfiber, light enough for summer wear and cozy enough for winter dips. I have and love my Heather Gray print, and until we meet in a happy medium in a workplace for temperature, this thing goes right on when I need to be my most productive.
4Happy Workspace, Happy Headspace
We all know how much time we spend working. The answer is always “too much,” which is why it’s important to prioritize your office ergonomics. Not only will getting rid of the distractions of discomfort increase your output, creativity, productivity, it will improve other facets of your daily life.
As Daines puts it, “We find that a new level of awareness and self-care at your desk inevitably spills into other areas of your life. You begin to take more care in how you set up the seat of your car, your posture in bed, and even how high you hold your smartphone as you're scrolling while you wait in line.
“It's not just about feeling good at work — it's about setting a tone for the rest of your life that you're going to make small, simple, powerful adjustments to your environment that are health-positive.”
And what’s more important than your physical and mental health?