Ergonomic Workstation Essentials for Digital Nomads
What Is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is about designing with the user in mind. Ergonomic designs are backed by considerable physiological, psychological, engineering and statistical research in order to act in a high-functioning, intuitive way.
These designs reduce discomfort while promoting efficiency and productivity.
In order to work to your full potential, you need to function mentally and physically at your best, and these two aspects are interlinked to a large degree.
The good news is there are plenty of tools designed specifically to maintain your physical health while working.
If you invest in ergonomics, over time, the investment will return to you as increased productivity and workflow.
You will also be able to associate your work with more positive things if you’re not distracted by physical discomfort. This will lead in turn to a healthy work-life balance .
Why Is an Ergonomic Workstation Important?
Being a digital nomad is a lifestyle choice, one that spells freedom.
We are lucky to live at a time that previous generations could have only dreamed about; a time where, if we choose to, we can work from literally anywhere in the world.
As a result, many have taken the leap of faith to throw aside the perceived shackles of a traditional office space in favor of, say, a beachside retreat in the Galapagos, a humming café in Copenhagen or a cabin in the forest.
The possibilities for remote working really are endless and exciting, and there are so many benefits to be discovered .
However, as we all know, freedom can come at a price.
In return for working remotely and mixing our work and lifestyle together, we are charged with looking after ourselves – HR and management are no longer responsible for our wellbeing.
A poor ergonomic work setup can be the catalyst for a vicious circle of health issues that begin with poor posture.
Issues brought on by an inadequate workstation setup are usually related to musculoskeletal disorders. Over time, these will also influence mental wellbeing and therefore overall work performance.
The way you sit literally influences how you feel.
Consider how you feel when you are sat up straight, as opposed to when you slump or hunch over. In the latter position, you are compressing your lung capacity, hindering your ability to breathe and therefore impeding the flow of oxygen to the brain.
How Does This Apply to Digital Nomads?
You might be wondering how you can be safely responsible for yourself yet still have fun with your digital nomad lifestyle.
Luckily, there are certain kit essentials that are readily portable and will be a great support as you continue to construct your own workstation wherever you choose to set it up.
Digital nomads can feasibly carry out all kinds of remote jobs , but one of the things all digital nomads have in common is that they use a computer screen for much or all of their work.
As a digital nomad, you might be used to working in a variety of environments. With a kit of essentials, you can set up your workstation anywhere and get down to work comfortably and safely, without having to carry too much around with you.
Think of your portable workstation like any other portable solution – a tent, for example, or essentials for a day of exploring outdoors. You would make sure that these things were packed down as small as possible and were also easy to carry.
7 Portable Ergonomic Workstation Essentials for Digital Nomads
A laptop stand is an essential part of any ergonomic workspace. This is because any ergonomic workspace starts and ends with your posture.
Having a laptop stand allows you to adjust the height of your screen so that there is no additional pressure on your neck, shoulders, spine or upper back during your working hours.
The Roost stand is currently one of the most popular pieces of stand kit on the market, priced at around $110.
The Roost stand is fully collapsible and has spring-loaded, rubber-edged grips so you can be assured whatever the size of your laptop, it will be held firmly in place.
Weighing in at 170 g, it can be transported around easily.
Investing in an ergonomic keyboard is a bit of a leap of faith. Not only are they another financial investment, but they also require some initial patience while you build new muscle memory.
Ergonomic keyboards are typically split down the middle into two halves or are tented in the middle to allow your hands and arms to work at a more natural angle.
They may also have keys set at different depths. This will reduce the chance of repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) and will make your overall working experience much more comfortable.
The Kensington Pro Fit Ergonomic Wireless Keyboard is a great all-round option for a digital nomad on a budget.
As it is completely wireless (with Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz options), if you find yourself in a setting without many sockets, you don’t have to sacrifice your setup.
With a resistant coating, it is at least partially protected against different environments.
It also has a built-in wrist rest, so whether you are typing or resting your wrists and hands, your hands are well supported. This might be the heaviest bit of kit – but at 1 kg, it’s not that bad.
Ergonomic Support Cushions
One of the problems you face as a digital nomad is not being able to guarantee the quality of your seating arrangements.
However, by using ergonomic support cushions, you can easily make your seat into a makeshift ergonomic chair.
Therm-a-rest Travel Support Cushions are a great option for your workstation kit essentials, as they are self-inflating so you can easily travel with them.
They provide support to the lower back and legs, whilst relieving pressure placed on your lumbar spine.
They also have a set of hook-and-loop tabs, so you can join two cushions together for increased support.
One of these travel support cushions weighs in at only 120 g, so as well as packing down easily, they won’t be difficult to carry around. These cushions are priced at around $40 each.
It’s easy to underestimate the practical use of a good-quality keyboard pad, but as part of your setup for safe, comfortable typing, it’s a wise investment.
Using keyboard mats and mouse mats helps to maintain a neutral position for your wrists, so that nerves remain uncompressed, reducing the chances of carpal tunnel syndrome and RSI.
One of the best keyboard mats currently on the market for budget, reliability and a lightweight, easy pack-away is the HyperX Wrist Rest.
With this particular keyboard pad, your hands are not only gently and imperceptibly supported but are also kept cool via the memory foam cool gel inside the pad.
It also comes with a stable anti-slip grip.
The HyperX Wrist Rest is at the slightly higher end of pricing for this type of product, but for the level of comfort and the quality of manufacture that it offers, especially if you are putting in long hours at your keyboard, it is well worth it.
It currently retails for around $26.
Mouse Mat (With Added Support)
As with keyboard mats, mouse mats tend to be underrated. However, as well as keeping your mouse from sliding about, they also play their part in supporting your wrists.
What’s more, they help the rest of your body to retain a posture that will prevent you from injury further down the road.
They are inexpensive and will slip easily into a laptop bag.
This will probably be the cheapest piece of kit in your portable workstation arsenal.
Kensington Comfort Foam Mouse Mat is compatible with both laser and optical mice, and is priced at around $12.
It weighs in at 240 g, and at 3.5 x 23.8 x 33 cm, can still comfortably slip into a bag without being too bulky.
Blue Light Glasses
Blue light is all around us. It is naturally produced by the sun, but also emitted by digital screens.
Blue light has short, high-energy waves, meaning the kind of light energy produced is fine for the daytime, but when over-exposed to them, especially in the evening, they may disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and make you more susceptible to discomfort and strain.
Blue light blocking glasses have inbuilt filters that block or absorb the blue light emitted from your laptop screen.
Although you may think this doesn’t have a bearing on ergonomics, if you’re struggling to see your screen after a long day of poring over it, you are much more likely to begin to lean in closer to see better.
When your eyes are strained from looking at screens for a long time, you may also notice the physical effects, which could include headaches, tired and sore eyes, and facial muscle soreness as a result of squinting.
Working as a digital nomad brings variety and may see you working with worldwide clients. If this is the case, a regular 9-to-5 working day may not always be possible, and you may also find yourself working at times of reduced daylight in the evening.
Reducing exposure to blue light will help to regulate your circadian rhythm so you are more likely to start each working day with the right amount of energy and with fresh eyes, whatever your schedule.
Blue light glasses can be fairly inexpensive, depending on what frames you choose.
Gamma Ray Flexlite Computer Glasses currently retail at about $20.
They are constructed entirely out of plastic, which makes them lightweight and hard-wearing, as well as good value for money.
It is also possible to make blue light glasses up to your prescription, and many of these glasses are also UV blocking.
Rucksack for Your Workstation
Your final kit-list essential is the bag that you use. You may have the most ergonomic workstation ever, but if you’re not transporting your equipment using the right bag, you may as well not bother because you will be straining yourself before and after work.
When picking your rucksack, go for a lightweight one that distributes weight evenly across your back and shoulders – this means a bag that ideally has chest and hip straps.
Remember to also choose a bag that is waterproof – you will literally be carrying your office around in it, so keeping your kit safe is paramount.
If you are flying regularly, consider purchasing a backpack that can be used as your carry-on luggage to avoid further expense down the line.
As a top recommendation, Osprey backpacks have an excellent reputation for good reason.
Osprey Porter 30 has all the essentials. It will not only give you the right support when carrying your kit, but it looks smart, is hardwearing and has a lifetime guarantee.
It also features multiple storage pockets and a separate padded laptop sleeve. Your most expensive piece of working kit is therefore amply protected and easy to remove.
These backpacks aren’t the cheapest on the market, but with the quality of construction (made from 100% recycled materials) and exemplary guarantee, they are well worth the money. These bags currently retail at around $140.
As a digital nomad, it is important to remember that, first and foremost, you need to look after yourself. Your work starts and ends with taking responsibility for your own comfort, productivity, health and happiness.
The workstation essentials described in this article are designed to help you look after yourself, so that you can do your best work, knowing that your mental and physical health is taken care of.