The first thing you’ll need for a healthy work-from-home routine is a good ergonomic desk chair. The second is proper usage of that chair. That will improve your posture, which can be life-changing. Good posture yields more energy for brainwork, plus enhanced physical and environmental awareness. That opens many new doors for physical and mental betterment. Here are six intuitive steps that anyone can connect with. Follow these to supercharge your WFH health, happiness, and productivity at a desk.
Working in an office can be bad for your health, happiness, and productivity. It often involves sitting on a cheap chair under fluorescent lights while grinding on a low-end PC. Middle managers stand guard to ensure ‘productivity’.
Taking frequent pauses to think, rest, or walk around might make you look lazy. As a result, you spend your shifts firing off mouse clicks to look busy. By the end of each day, you’re mentally and physically exhausted.
Working From Home Puts You In Control
Working from home puts you in control of your equipment, pacing, and environment. That frees you to address productivity killers, rather than endure them.
For example, when the pandemic first hit in early 2020, millions shifted to working from home. The unprepared coped by working long hours on a couch, bed, or the floor. Consequently, complaints of back pain surged.
Rather than endure crippling back pain, millions working from home were free to take action. As a result, gaming chair sales skyrocketed. Many learned first-hand how a good ergonomic chair can change one’s quality of life.
The gist is that proper use of a good ergonomic chair will help you to feel better and be more productive. Reaching this level is extremely motivating! It should unleash a hunger to keep the party going with further productivity and wellness hacks.
6 Steps To Supercharge Deskwork At Home
After years of chronic back pain, CFX editor Anil Ramsey bought his first gaming chair in 2017. At the time, there was little information online about proper gaming chair usage. To address that, ChairsFX.com launched in 2018.
We started by flushing out clear ergonomic guidelines for healthy sitting. Then, we applied those while using gaming chairs. That helped us to master and then define healthy gaming chair sitting techniques.
Five years later, we’ve developed an extensive library of ergonomic tutorials. The gist of those is that when used correctly, gaming chairs promote good posture.
With good posture, energy levels surge. With excess energy, new opportunities for physical and mental development emerge.
This productivity checklist outlines the steps that come after good posture sets in. It’s an intuitive process that connects you more deeply with your body and mind.
Use these steps to map your own progress towards being your best while working at a desk.
Step 1: Buy a Good Ergonomic Chair
Humans are not designed to sit for long periods. Doing so flattens the lumbar curve, rounds the upper back, and bends the spine into an ugly “c” shape.
For a few decades, ergonomists have been touting dynamic neutral sitting postures as the healthy solution to this physiological problem.
Learning how to sit in neutral postures is intuitive and connective. Doing so restores your spine to its natural healthy alignment. That puts your whole body in balance while working core muscles with optimal efficiency.
What Is An Ergonomic Chair?
An ergonomic chair comes with adjustable features that support neutral, dynamic sitting positions. Three essential features define a chair as ‘ergonomic’:
- Adjustable lumbar support: mild pressure in the lower back reflexively aligns the spine.
- Adjustable armrests: absorbs arm weight; provides extra bracing to hold up the spine.
- Reclining backrest: enables movement while sitting.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy ergonomic support. A good cheap gaming chair under $200 will do the job, although with less luxury. Plenty of ergonomic office chairs under $300 also fit the bill.
If money is tight, buy a cheap chair and follow the steps in this guide. A year from now, with supercharged performance, you’ll likely be able to afford something more luxurious.
Gaming Chairs Vs Ergonomic Office Chairs
Over the years, we’ve reviewed hundreds of gaming chairs and dozens of ergonomic office chairs. Both do a similar job at supporting neutral sitting positions.
The biggest difference is that ergonomic office chairs come with limited recline functionality. These are popular in office settings because they force users to sit upright at all times.
Gaming chairs differ with full-back support and deep recline functionality. Beyond upright sitting positions, they also support deep lounging.
That provides versatile all-day sitting support for work, play, and rest. Learn more in this feature:
ChairsFX picks: Best WFH Gaming Office Chairs
Over the past few years, hundreds of ergonomic chairs have flooded the market. Even so, after several years of reviewing the best models, we’ve found that only a few models stand out.
On the gaming chair side, the Secretlab Titan 2022 Series is miles ahead of its closest competitor. There’s no other gaming chair on the market that can match the Titan’s features, design options, or after-care support.
On the office chair side, the Herman Miller Aeron has reigned as the ergonomic gold standard since 1994. Head-to-head, both chairs have merits. See our Titan vs Aeron Review for a detailed comparison.
Beyond those two, a handful of high-end alternatives are worth a look:
- Herman Miller Aeron: easy to use; available in 3 sizes; packed with world-leading features; 12-year warranty. ($1595 from Herman Miller)
- Secretlab Titan: industry-leading ergonomics; 3 sizes; 30+ styles; 5-year warranty; excellent support. ($449-$499 from Secretlab)
- Herman Miller Embody: next-level backrest adaptability; similar features as the Aeron; 12-year warranty. ($1595 from Herman Miller)
- Sidiz T80: high-end ergonomics; synchro-tilt functionality; full-back support; gamer-friendly; 3-year warranty. ($749.00 on Amazon)
- DXRacer Air: modular hybrid with full mesh office chair upholstery and upgraded racing-style functionality. ($499 from DXRacer)
To compare these models and a few cheaper (but solid) alternatives, check this review:
Step 2: Etch Neutral Sitting Into Muscle Memory
This is the most challenging part, especially for first-time ergonomic chair users. If you’re used to slouching, sitting in a clean neutral posture might feel awkward and painful. For example, when I bought my first gaming chair back in 2017, I started with very bad posture.
At the time, there were no online guides to help. Through trial and error, it took me a very painful month before I got the hang of it. Several times before I figured it out, I seriously considered throwing my chair in the trash!
To sit in a neutral posture, follow these steps:
- Plant your feet firmly on the floor.
- Tuck your hips as deep as possible into the seat pan.
- Adjust the lumbar support to fill your lower back curve.
Once you master the basics, you can optimize by adjusting your armrests, seat height, or backrest recline. This tutorial uses gaming chairs, but the same concepts apply to ergonomic office chairs:
Wait for Muscle Memory to Kick In
Getting started with neutral sitting might feel awkward at first. Even so, give it a few days. Getting used to sitting this way depends on muscle memory. When you practice any skill, your brain begins to coordinate muscle movements. Repetition etches neural pathways deeper into memory to perform tasks more efficiently.
At first, sitting in a neutral style might cause mild soreness. If you lift weights for the first time, you’ll also feel sore for a few days after.
Getting past soreness in the gym helps your muscles get stronger. The same principle applies with ergonomic chairs. The longer you sit in neutral postures, the more your body will adjust.
After a week or so of practice, sitting this way will become effortless. Without even thinking about it, you will naturally position yourself to sit with a clean, healthy posture while you work.
If you need help with this step, check out these video tutorials:
Step 3: Boost Health Benefits With Micro-Breaks
After you buy an ergonomic chair and learn how to use it, you’ll enjoy improved posture. With better sitting posture, you’ll gain more energy, sharper focus, and improved productivity. This will flood you with feelings of bliss, comfort, and positivity.
Bask in that glory for as long as you can. When the thrill begins to wear off, there’s a very easy (but counter-intuitive) way to supercharge once more — stop sitting!
Taking several short breaks through a workday yields many benefits. Esports Physical Therapist Dr. Joshua Lee explained the physical benefits to ChairsFX. “The body craves movement. Short rest breaks with exercises are like little snacks. Your body can use these throughout a gaming session to keep you energized.”
Beyond the physical, downtime also supercharges cognitive ability. Stepping away from the computer for a break will shift your brain to a relaxed, dreamlike state. This mental downtime helps the brain process tasks on a big-picture level.
Timing breaks at 90-minute intervals can also help you sync your tasks with the body’s natural rhythms. The basic rest-activity cycle defines deep sleep as 90-minute periods of differing rhythms.
During waking hours, humans shift through similar stages ranging from higher to lower alertness. Some call it the “ultradian rhythm.” Timing your work sessions in sync with this rhythm will help you get more done in less time. Any time your concentration begins to wane, take a break.
No matter what kind of ergonomic chair you use, this simple trick will take your performance to a higher level. Learn more in this feature:
Step 4: Optimize Your Workstation Ambiance
By this point, your work-from-home setup should be running smoothly. You have a good ergonomic chair. You’ve also integrated healthy neutral sitting as a permanent habit. The thrill of life with good posture should keep you glowing with delight for a few months.
Once it wears off, rekindle the thrill by adding regular breaks into your routine. Then, you’ll find yourself getting more work done with less time spent sitting.
As your health, wellness, and leisure time expands, something new will emerge. Good posture makes you more aware of your body and its nuances. That awareness will eventually spread to your entire surroundings.
Feng Shui Principles For A Home Office
Gaining greater awareness of your surroundings isn’t much use without a method to harness that. Luckily, Feng Shui principles slot seamlessly in to help with ambiance optimization.
In Chinese, Feng shui is “wind” (feng) and “water” (shui). For home workers, its principles help to arrange working spaces for harmony and balance. Doing so maximizes the flow of positive energy in a room.
The most basic feng shui principles apply to everyone who works from home:
- Clutter-free environment: clutter affects your brain and computing performance. A messy workstation raises stress levels while wearing down the brain. Wipe down your chair, desk, and peripherals each morning before you start work. The difference it makes should inspire you to make this a habit.
- Fresh air: many studies show that stale air makes people feel listless and unmotivated. Fresh air in a workspace does the opposite, inspiring creative productivity. From a feng shi perspective, fresh air recharges the life force in an environment by removing stale energies.
- Sound management: sound generates energy vibrations that can disrupt the energy flows in a workspace. For instance, nearby construction or barking dogs can rattle nerves and shatter concentration. In my experience, the best solution is to drown out the racket with white noise. Nature sounds without birdsong work well.
Beyond these basics, you can also use feng shui to optimize the layout of your workspace. For optimal energy flows through a room, there are two essentials.
First, arrange your desk so that it faces the room’s entrance. This is the ‘power’ position of a room that helps to stimulate success energies. In contrast, sitting with your back to the door will generate anxious, vulnerable energies.
Second, try to arrange your desk so that windows face beside you. A window in front of you will send your work energies out of the room. A window behind you will let chi (life energy) escape. To learn more about home workstation optimization, see this:
Step 5: Optimize Nutrition, Sleep, and Exercise
By this point, your purchase of an ergonomic work-from-home chair has blown away all of your expectations. You work in blistering chunks of time at a high pace. In between work bursts, you develop an internal alarm that kicks off whenever you need a break.
Even though you spend less time sitting, you get more work done. That gives you the time to master Feng Shui basics that optimize the energy flows in your room. More doors to self-improvement will then open.
In my case, this resulted in a newfound passion for working out. Suddenly able to get more work done faster, I gained more time — and energy — for other pursuits. In my case, that energy went into lifting weights. A year after getting started with a gaming chair, my beer belly shriveled up and big benefits kicked in!
While learning how to build muscle, I also learned about the key building blocks for growth. Between exercise sessions, proper rest, recovery, and nutrition were key.
Astralis Performance Model
The same principles for building muscle can apply to gaming and ergonomic office chair users. Astralis is a Danish CS:GO team that rose from anonymity to become one of the greatest CS:GO teams ever. Since 2019, the team has been training full-time on custom Secretlab gaming chairs.
However, a big part of the team’s success is their time spent away from the computer. The team uses the Astralis Performance Model to emphasize proper nutrition, fitness, and rest.
The model has three dimensions:
- Physical: proper exercise, nutrition, and sleep.
- Mental: player dynamics and profiling.
- Technical: player skills and team strategies.
To support these dimensions, Astralis employs a sports director, sports psychologist, nutritionist, and analysts. Nyholm credits this model to the team’s consistent success. While many teams have reached the #1 rank, Astralis is the only one to hold that spot for over 86 weeks.
Within the ChairsFX Performance Model, the first dimension is the most relevant. In short, when away from the computer, focus on three things:
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Do some physical exercise every day.
- Do what you can to ensure deep, sound sleep every night.
Step 6: Maintain Discipline And Expand
This adventure started with the simple purchase of an ergonomic chair. If you’ve made it this far, you should be rolling in benefits. That means professional and financial gains, personal ones, and physical ones. Even so, the path of self-improvement has no end.
A consistent challenge is to maintain the discipline to adhere to the first five steps. For example, without discipline, you can ruin your back while using a gaming chair!
As another example, pre-lockdown, my routines were razor sharp. When the world closed down, that fell apart. For a while, I coped by slamming beers and eating pizza. Resetting my routines has been hard, but I’m making progress.
Beyond cleaning up my diet, I’ve replaced my 5-year gym routine with a work-from-home setup. Lately, I’ve been playing around with Chris Heria dumbbell routines as work breaks.
Sharp Discipline Expansion pack
Maintaining discipline is a never-ending challenge. Even so, once your posture, diet, and exercise habits are in check, there are grander avenues of self-improvement to explore. Examples:
- Mindfulness: training your mind to be fully present and aware in the moment.
- Meditation: learning how to keep the mind still without wandering.
- Visualization: imagining a preferred outcome and filling it with positive energy (example).
If these challenges don’t jive with you, choose something that does. It could be related to food, fitness, or whatever you feel passionate about!
Working from home presents a fantastic opportunity to better yourself in many ways. If you work at a desk, the adventure begins when you buy a good gaming or ergonomic chair.
Once you buy a chair, the next challenge is to use it correctly. Follow the steps in this guide. Upon success, you will begin to notice these benefits:
- Improved posture and flexibility
- Reduced muscle strain
- Deeper breathing and improved circulation
- Higher energy levels
- Improved mood and wellness
- Greater ability to focus
Once those aspects kick in, you will feel better, more energetic, and more confident to take on new challenges. From there, the world is yours to play with and explore, without limits!