In my many years of working behind a desk, I’ve tried a lot of different office equipment, and being 5’1″-ish means I have special requirements for making my workstation more comfortable.
I used to skimp on office equipment because it can be expensive, but I realized that I was paying for it in other ways and have experienced pain and discomfort related to repetitive stress. I decided investing in quality equipment is worth the cost, so I spared no expense trying different things to make my desk more comfortable and relieve wrist pain, back discomfort, and sciatica. A full list of my essential ergonomic equipment is here, but I wanted to draw special attention to what I needed at my desk to accommodate my height.
Of course, good equipment is no replacement for frequent breaks and regular exercise, but I always make sure my equipment is working for me, not against me. Here are all the must-haves if you’re on the shorter side of the height spectrum.
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Note: I haven’t received my desk yet, but I’ll update this with my personal experience as soon as it arrives at the beginning of 2023.
This is the desk I dreamed up back in 2019! But I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen, so I simply had two workstations: one was a floor desk and the other a sit-stand desk. I’m super excited to consolidate my desks now, and use the space in my apartment more efficiently.
Even if you never want to sit on the floor, this desk allows you to lower the work surface as low as you want for your seated position. This is important because my previous sit-stand desk (SARSKA from IKEA) was actually too tall for me even at the lowest setting. That meant my chair was too high for my feet to reach the floor, which meant the chair was painfully digging into the back of my legs and I needed a foot rest to compensate.
Having a desk that fits me properly will solve these issues. I’ll be able to use the foot rest as intended and have a much more comfortable work day.
So far, the CLATINA Ergonomic Executive Chair, sometimes called the Mellet, has been the best chair for me. Some people might find the stiff foam of the seat uncomfortable, but I got used to it fairly quickly — maybe because I used a flattened out foam chair for a year or so.
This chair is highly adjustable. You can adjust the seat depth, and it allows me to lower the seat enough so my feet actually touch the ground. The arm rests are 3-way adjustable (up/down, side-to-side, and angled), which is great for better support depending on if I’m using the keyboard or mouse. You can also adjust how far the back rest reclines.
If you like super plush seats, this might not be the chair for you, but if you don’t mind a little firmer seat, this is worth a try. To read more about my experience with other office chairs, read The Best Office Chair for Shorter People.
This WALI monitor mount keeps my monitor and laptop at the appropriate height. I’ve found that having my monitor at the correct height eliminated the neck pain I used to have every night.
This mount is mostly metal (not plastic), so it seems like it will last a long time. It holds my laptop and a 27″ monitor side by side, but the monitor and laptop holder are right up against each other, so I wouldn’t use this with anything bigger than a 27″ monitor.
You can easily adjust both the monitor and laptop to the appropriate height for your eye level. It also has cable management on the pole to keep your desk tidy.
Before you buy
The height can only be adjusted using the Allen wrenches, so if you want something you can easily fiddle with, I also used this spring-loaded monitor mount with good results.
Bonus: The cable management on the WALI monitor mount also features a clever storage solution for the hex keys needed to reposition the mounts, so you can make adjustments quickly and easily, without having to worry about finding the keys.
I’ve tried so many different footrests for my desk: extra pillows, foam cushions, cardboard boxes, plastic footrests, step stools. You name it, I’ve probably tried it. This Humanscale Footrest is the best footrest by far. It’s comfortable, easy to adjust the height, and looks good.
It’s designed to rock and tilt, which is supposed to encourage movement to help with your circulation. The other benefit of the moving platform is that you’re not forced to keep your feet and legs in one position.
Initially, I used the footrest with the platform flipped over to the plain side because I assumed the grips would be uncomfortable in socks. That side ended up being too slippery, so I flipped it over to the proper side and found that the grips are actually great, even without shoes. Win.
Before you buy
Consider the legs of your chair and how close you want to sit to the footrest. The bar across the front of the footrest prevents your chair from rolling under the platform; this way, you can always use the rocking feature of the footrest. When I had the Capisco by HÅG, it has pretty long legs and less space between them, so I can’t get as close to the footrest as I’d like, but with CLATINA chair, it’s not as much of an issue.
This isn’t the kind of footrest you can use to push against when you shift around in your chair. The mechanism holding up the platform isn’t strong enough to handle that pressure, so you’ll end up adjusting the height of the footrest inadvertently. It took me a while, but I now remember not to do that, but if that’s going to bother you, this one may not work for you.
Bonus: No assembly needed! I removed the base from the box, set it to the desired height and tightened the hand screws, then set the platform on top. Done.
I’ve been working from home full time since 2018, and my home office has evolved from propping up a monitor on cardboard boxes to a tidy workspace that would make Marie Kondo proud. If you’re interested in even more great office equipment, check out my 10 Essentials For a Great Work-From-Home Day.
If you’re experiencing chronic pain, going to the doctor should always be the first step. After diagnosing me, my doctor provided me with a Letter of Medical Necessity, which I submitted to the flexible spending account (FSA) company with my receipts for ergonomic equipment, and they reimbursed me for the desk and chair. FSAs are all different, so be sure to check what your FSA will cover.
If applicable, you can also inform your employer of your pain, and you may be able to get an ergonomic evaluation. I was fortunate to have an evaluation at a previous employer, and the ergonomic consultant resolved my chronic neck pain overnight! It was amazing. He also gave me plenty of tips that I’ve continued to follow long after I left that employer.
Here’s to a more comfortable work day!
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