Too Old For A Freaking Booster Seat
December 14, 2011 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Hive mind, I poll your collective wisdom to reccomend me some sort of cushion that I can use for my office chair so I can be closer to the proper height above my desk to avoid computer-related RSIs.

I work in an office at a job that basically requires that I be at a computer all day long. It's an open workstation set up (think cubicles w/o dividers) and in essence, my computer is on a long table shared by two other colleagues. My chair is raised to it's maximum possible height and I still am sitting too low to type comfortably. To give you an idea of how low it is, if I rest my elbows on the table I actually have to raise my arms/hunch my shoulders. When I am seated normally, the table top is literally two inches below my breasts (sorry for the crassness, just trying to convey the absurdity of the situation). I feel like a toddler w/o a booster seat. Typing is massively uncomfortable.

The table height is apparently unadjustable (I have asked). Apparently this whole office was renovated a few years back to become a bit more modern/minimalist, but whatever genius came up with the table design didn't bother to make sure that the set up would be OSHA compliant. It is decidedly not. I asked for a new chair but can't find any that raise me to the proper level.

Everyone in the office suffers with this but apparently I am the only one bothering to complain. Drummimg up a collective effort to demand the table height be adjusted has therefore gone nowhere. I get the feeling they all think I am being difficult. (I think they are all doing a disservice to their backs and wrists, but whatever, it's their problem.) I already have chronic sciatica from a crappy non-OSHA compliant workstation at my last job (which I did not complain about because it was my first post college job and I didn't know any better, a literally painful lesson to learn) and do not want to aggravate it or cause more back problems. The area between my shoulder blades is starting to hurt now and I think it's largely due to this chair/table height issue and it's pissing me off.

Since no one takes my complaints seriously I have decided that I need to just take matters into my own hands and buy some sort of seat boosting cushion to raise me up about 4-5 inches higher. Does anyone have any suggestions for what cushion to buy or where I might look for such a thing? It would be nice to not break the bank on this as well.

(If anyone has any suggestions for how to get HR to take this issue more seriously that would be nice, too. My last job I ended up filing a workmans' comp claim to cover doctor's appointments/missed work. Rather not let things escalate to that level here this time around...)

My back and I thank you in advance.
posted by thereemix to Shopping (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm 5'5", btw, so squarely average-ish height for a it's not like I am super short and asking for unreasonable accomodations in the office. The table is too high for everyone.
posted by thereemix at 7:38 AM on December 14, 2011

This might be a couple of steps down the road, but you could file an anonymous complaint directly with OSHA.

As for booster seats - could you bring in your own chair? I did a quick search and found this place - I don't know about the quality of the cushions or if that's exactly what you have in mind (but the lady in the pictures sure looks happy).
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:45 AM on December 14, 2011

Your employer is failing in its duty of care to provide its employees with a safe workplace, and absolutely deserves a visit from a government official incapable of smiling. Call up and have them busted.

In the meantime, consider your legs as well as your upper body. If you raise your existing seat by five inches, are your legs going to end up dangling? If so, you might be better off looking for some kind of raised platform big enough for chair and feet.

If that's not practicable, it might be easier to lower your keyboard than to raise your body.
posted by flabdablet at 8:25 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

A hemorrhoid ring from the drug store will do it. But I agree with the others above that your employer has a responsibility to provide you with a safe working environment. They really need to buy you an appropriate chair. However, in the meantime, the $10 inflatable ring will raise you up a few inches.
posted by COD at 9:08 AM on December 14, 2011

Would standing up help? A coworker was having trouble with his back and, until they installed an adjustable keyboard tray for him, he just put his monitor and keyboard on top of some boxes. I think he also brought in a floor mat for cushioning. This may be in-your-face enough that it forces your employer to actually do something. You need to have a high tolerance for looking silly, but at least your wrists would thank you (if you set it up at the right height).
posted by cabingirl at 9:34 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

A bit off the wall but an exercise ball can replace a desk chair. They come in at least 3 sizes and you can inflate/deflate to some extent. Also good for your posture and core muscles. I guess you have to determine if you were boosted higher, would your feet still be making contact with the floor.
posted by PickeringPete at 9:53 AM on December 14, 2011

I clicked through to say the same thing cabingirl did -- I'd bring in a shelf to raise my computer/monitors and start standing.

When I'm working at a standing desk, I like to have a stool that I can rest one or the other foot on from time to time.
posted by rosa at 10:10 AM on December 14, 2011

Get them to buy you a standing chair/stool.
posted by anaelith at 12:10 PM on December 14, 2011

The 3M keyboard trays are excellent - I'm using this one and I'm very happy with it. It's stable enough that it doesn't move at all while I'm typing, which isn't something I could say for some other models I've tried. They seem to range from $100-200 at Amazon, with the pricier models adding more adjustability.

I like the Easy-Adjust model because I need to lower my tray to put the keyboard away under my desk; that might not be so much of a concern for you since you might have yours below desk height all the time. If you use a corner desk make sure to get a tray that'll work with that configuration, and you'd also want to check to be sure your desk is deep enough for whatever model you'd get.

With an adjustable tray you can set your chair height so that your legs are in a good position, and then set your keyboard height accordingly. If you add a "booster" to your seat to be able to type with your keyboard on top of your desk then chances are your legs won't be set up the way they should be, so I'd recommend against that approach.
posted by ethand at 12:12 PM on December 14, 2011

One more recommendation - if you're using an LCD monitor then an adjustable desk- or wall-mount for that might also help you set up a good environment.
posted by ethand at 12:17 PM on December 14, 2011

I actually am super short, so even with my adjustable table at its lowest setting, the desk is too high. I agree with those who say you need to lower the keyboard using a keyboard tray.

In addition to the keyboard tray, my office chair was modified (the post was trimmed) to get even lower than the lowest. Trust me when I say you do not want to be in a chair so high that your feet dangle. You might spare yourself the RSI, but your lower back and sciatic nerve will punish you for it.

Having said all that, if you do end up just raising yourself up, I recommend big honking phone books. Do they still make phone books? If you can find a couple big Yellow pages, wrap them in fabric or a towel and try that. I would also grab a few to have for your feet so they can rest on something. Cheap and effective.
posted by looli at 1:09 PM on December 14, 2011

Your employer is really risking workman's comp claims with this. Tell them to have someone install keyboard trays at the very least, and call OSHA if they refuse. Your desk is way too high: your keyboard should be at elbow height with your feet flat on the floor and your thighs horizontal without hanging over the front edge of the chair.
posted by rhizome at 2:35 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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