March marked twelve full months since the World Health Organization officially categorized the COVID-19 virus as a pandemic. On first glance, one might observe that disappointingly little has changed. But that’s an assumption that’s worth challenging. For one, we can look at the charts. In March of 2020, Bitcoin’s price index was hovering around $6,400 USD. This month, it hit a high of $60,743. As days go by, the cryptocurrency conversation continues to make headlines. And after the head-turning institutional investments that have taken place over the last two quarters, Bitcoin is taking center stage.
Plotting their involvement, investors across the world—established or otherwise—are sitting in their at-home offices, watching the charts move. Some investors go in with a plan: they wait for emotional yardsticks, follow institutional interest, or watch for head and shoulders patterns. They want what all investors want: maximal returns, minimal costs.
Unfortunately, there’s one cost that too often goes unnoticed during the long days currency traders spend at their desks. A make-shift workspace might not seem like the biggest risk in an investors ‘portfolio,’ but improper desk ergonomics can take an unbelievable toll. On average, Americans spend roughly 10 hours of their day in a seated position—that’s a number that’s only increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Sitting improperly for hours on end, we’re incurring invisible costs.
Improper Posture, Invisible Costs
For one, our mental performance is inhibited by pesky body aches. A recent study tracked 30,000 workers over the course of two weeks. They found that productive time lost to pain, including arthritis, headaches, and musculoskeletal discomfort, averaged roughly four and a half hours every week. Further studies have linked sedentary behavior and prolonged improper posture to downstream health effects: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic aches and pains. These not-so-far-off costs change the math of a desk-ridden day.
Solutions: Easily Said, Easily Done
Luckily, better at-desk health doesn’t have to mean abandoning your trading set up entirely. Far from it—a few simple workplace tweaks can go a long, long way. Below are low-cost, easy-to-use strategies for a better at-home workspace.
The Height Factor
There’s no one-size-fits-all workspace. Instead, your desk setup should be customized directly for your proportions. Your monitor, for example, should be one arm length away. This helps prevent eyestrain and promote a proper neck position. Your monitor should also be positioned so that your eyes look slightly downward when viewing the middle of your screen. Larger monitors need larger viewing distances, so it’s important to adjust accordingly. Properly placed, you’ll notice that your gaze feels natural and you have less of a temptation to crank your neck toward your screen.
From The Ground Up
Equally important is the height and positioning of your lower body. Your ideal desk height depends on how tall you are when you’re seated. Most surface heights are made around the standard 28” to 30” height, which is optimal for people between 5’8” and 5’10”. Chair heights, too, should be determined by your stature. For the same height range, an 18” seat height is recommended. You can use tools like Ergotron to automatically calculate the optimal measurements for your height and adjust accordingly.
But perhaps most importantly, and most often overlooked, is the positioning of your feet. Ideally, every time you sit at your desk, you would place your feet firmly on a slightly elevated, balanced surface that’s calculated properly for your seated height. Perfecting your foot position can offset seated load, relieve leg and back pain, reduce body fatigue, and promote better circulation throughout your entire day. Adjustable foot rests are ideal due to the level of customization they offer, but a properly positioned pillow or small box will serve you well in the meantime.
The Proper “Head And Shoulders” Pattern
Next, proper posture depends on the tools you use at your desk. Your keyboard and mouse should fall in line with your elbows. The armrests of your desk chair should align with your desk height such that you’re not dropping your wrists nor holding your forearms at a compromised position. Often, your dominant hand becomes permanently stressed with repetitive motions. This causes cramps and misalignments across your back and shoulders. Using low-cost tools like hand supports, you can remind yourself to remedy disharmonious positions, and prevent long-term effects like carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, or golfer’s arm.
Trying to solve for all of the above at once can feel overwhelming. When in doubt, infusing more movement into your day is always the right choice. Setting a timer for 30 minutes and stretching your legs when it sounds, taking a walk at lunch, or just choosing to take a call standing up; these are simple habits that really add up over time. By no means do you need to transition from a full at-desk workday to a marathon-length run. But using motion triggers at your desk, like a foot rocker or a standing desk mat, can have huge effectives on your physiology. The goal is to maximize the time you can spend at your desk, thinking clearly and making important decisions, without having that time take a toll on your overall health. With properly calibrated desk and seat heights, supported feet, a relaxed upper posture, and a little extra movement, you’ll be able to do just that.
Chris Lam is an entrepreneur and the Founder of ErgoFoam, a unique ergonomic footrest designed to support one’s feet, improve posture, and increase circulation. ErgoFoam was awarded "Best Under-Desk Foot Rest of 2020 by Wirecutter” and named as "the most comfortable and supportive" model of its kind by the New York Times.