How to Improve Efficiency and Productivity at Your Work Desk by Reducing Eyestrain, Wrist Pain and Environmental Conditions

by on January 18th, 2011
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Improving efficiency when your work is done at a desk is often described with the term ergonomics. That’s just fancy talk for arranging your desk and surrounding work area to achieve the most work with least effort. Sometimes ergonomics is not enough and needs to be enhanced with less structural types of changes to your working environment. You might just be amazed at how much more efficiently you work and how much more productive you can become by making just a few simple changes. As someone who has worked in a variety of home office environments and designs, I can attest to the fact that this advice is more easily put into action when you have complete control over the workspace, but even those working at a desk in an office cubicle can benefit.


An invisible invader creeping inside your desktop work area is eyestrain. As the day wears on and the days wear on when working under less than optimal conditions, the strain begins to take a toll. You can arrange overhead lighting and desk lighting all you want to create effect and to serve the purpose of illumination, but keep in mind that when light from a lamp or bulb shines directly onto the monitor, you unnecessarily increase the odds for eyestrain reducing efficiency and productivity. What type of lighting you use at your desk is far less important than making sure that the light doesn’t shine onto the computer screen in such a way that it creates a glare or adversely affects your ability to clearly and easily identify what is on the screen.

Computer Screen Placement

Part and parcel with the advice of keeping direct lighting away from the computer screen is ergonomic benefit of situating the screen so that it is perpendicular to any open window, especially the window nearest your desk. Perpendicular placement instantly reduces the often overpowering effect of sunlight and shadows playing havoc with your screen. You may also discover that peripheral activity was playing a much larger role in decreasing your potential efficiency than you ever imagined.

Lower Your Keyboard

Anyone who sits for long hours at a stretch typing on a keyboard is going to eventually complain of strain on the wrist, fingers or arms. The quickest way to increase productivity slowed down by the arrival of pain at the end of the day is to simply lower the position of the keyboard. You don’t have to get a fancy desk that allows you to place the keyboard lower, you can accomplish the same thing by raising the height of your chair.

Lowering the keyboard from its position if you notice you are constantly experiencing aches and pains in your wrists has the effect of naturally placing your limbs in more efficient alignment. Experiment with positioning until you find just the right height to relieve chronic pain. If you do your work on a laptop, consider adding an external keyboard that can be adjusted. This is not a bad idea even for anyone working with a laptop since the design of those particular computers are created specifically to take advantage of limited space rather than for comfort or productivity.

Sick Air

Another hidden culprit plotting to reduce your efficiency and productivity levels when spending long hours chained to a desk is the quality of your air. Office workers are usually more likely to feel the effects of bad air affecting the quality of their work as well as the output by virtue of a variety of elements coming into play: a ventilation system built by the lowest bidding contractor, the poisonous mixture of scents and odors brought into the work area by fellow employees, chemicals entering the environment from office supplies and equipment and other foreign intruders over which you have control.

If your desk is part of your home office, you have much more control over the toxicity of the air you breathe. Regardless of whether you share your desk area with dozens of others or have a great big room all to yourself, you can improve the quality of the air by introducing plants that will provide a steady supply of fresh oxygen. Oxygen helps to feed your brain and that results in greater focus, mental alertness and creativity.

Wayward Pleasures of Distraction

You may notice that your efficiency and productivity when you work at a desk varies throughout different periods of the day. Take a good survey of your preferred working conditions and determine if the repetition is perhaps obstructing your potential. For instance, I simply cannot write at the peak of my abilities in a silent workspace. For years, I found that reruns of “King of the Hill” stimulated by ability to write. I probably have heard each episode of “King of the Hill” more than anyone on earth. Notice I said heard. The TV is on and in my eyeline, but I don’t actually watch the tube. I need the sound that TV shows produce. I have moved away from “King of the Hill” but find my best work comes in concert with reruns of old TV shows with which I am already familiar. I have experimented with playing music, but even though I don’t actually pay attention to the visual images on the screen, there is something about them that helps me work better than with sound alone.

You may be one of those people who need complete silence around your desk area in order to be productive. Then again, maybe those periods when your output and level of work notably suffer means you should experiment with occasionally introducing some background music, or turning on a TV or opening a window to let in the sounds of the outside world you usually prefer to tune out. If your preferred working environment produces an inescapable pattern of ups and downs in your productivity, you should seriously consider mixing up things relative to the elements at play.

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