Work From Home Ergonomics: The Complete Guide

work from home
            Photo by: William Fortunato, Ketut Subiyanto, Thirdman, Anthony Shkraba, Sarah Chai, Vlada Karpovich (left to right, top to bottom)

COVID-19 has brought about a new generation of employees – the remote worker. At a glance, work from home may appear to be the most desirable situation a person asks for. However, it’s important to retain those proper ergonomic practices your office so persistently encouraged. The Good Space is here to prove to you that good ergonomic practices have positive impacts on both your productivity and health. Ergonomics helps in designing the work environment to improve safety, health, comfort, performance, and minimize risk for injury. Whether working from home is temporary or permanent, implement these ergonomic practices to help your work experience be safe and productive.

Micro Breaks

A body in motion is a healthy body, which is why micro-breaks are important. A micro-break is a short break (5 – 10 minutes) consisting of any type of postural change. Take micro-breaks every 30 minutes or so to help reduce fatigue and recharge the senses. It can not only be helpful for the eyes but the body and mind as well. Some examples of these include: walking, stretching, and resisted exercises. Since you work from home, try completing a small house chore as well.

Walking

There are many activities to do while on a break. Instead of scrolling on your electronic device or sitting while talking to others, try activities that include walking. A study conducted on data entry workers found that a 5-minute brisk walk every hour resulted in decreased discomfort from the neck and shoulder, reduced eye strain, and increased productivity & accuracy. Other walking activities include pacing while taking calls or completing a small house chore like taking the trash out. Our height-adjustable columns are tall enough to accommodate most under-desk treadmills! If you don’t have the means to do this, try some stretches from the next section.

Stretching

Office Stretches

Throughout the workday, muscles become tight and strained. Stretching is key to preventing this. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety, it’s a good practice to stretch 5 to 10 minutes for every hour spent at the workstation. Stretching results in relieving tension put on the muscles throughout the workday. If experiencing shoulder pain, bring the arms together behind your back (one arm behind the shoulder and the other behind the back). Alternatively, try clasping the hands above your head while pulling up, holding for 10 – 30 seconds, to stretch the arms and upper back.

Resisted Exercises

Exercise, in general, is great for the body. A study shown in the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Journal found that resisted exercises help to reduce neck muscle pain. Shoulder elevation and abduction up to 2 minutes or until muscle fatigue will help to strengthen and relax the neck muscles.

Atmosphere

When you work from home, many distractions arise. Inadequate lighting, excessive noise, stressful climate, and other workplace disruptions make for distractions in the office, which contributes to lowering productivity and effectiveness. Prior to starting your workday, take the following steps to help eliminate atmospheric distractions.

Set Optimal Temperature

Changing the temperature in the office may seem insignificant, but imagine working in an office that causes sweating or shivering. Seems like a small component that can cause some distraction. Consider getting an under desk heater or air conditioner if unable to set the central temperature of the room. We’re doing our part to keep you comfortable by providing solid wood tops with our adjustable height desk that responds well to body heat. Glass, solid rock/mineral surface, and even laminate work surface can often feel cold on a resting arm.

Quiet the Environment

Some people like silence while working, others like music. Either way, try to eliminate unexpected or loud noises creeping into your work environment. There may be construction near or frequent garbage pickups. If these or other loud noises are routinely done near you, consider noise-canceling headphones. 

Set Proper Lighting

Too bright of a light can hurt eyes, but too dim can cause strain. Setting the proper lighting in the office is one of the many steps toward having a productive work from home experience. A study published in the Building and Environment Journal found office lighting to have a positive effect on the alertness of office workers. A desk lamp can be a helpful addition to your workstation. Be sure to set the optimal computer brightness level and remove any glares from the screen that may come from outdoors.

A study conducted on data entry workers found that a 5-minute brisk walk every hour resulted in decreased discomfort from the neck and shoulder, reduced eye strain, and increased productivity & accuracy.

Posture is Key

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Many elements result in premium comfort while working from home. Posture while sitting and standing plays a key role. Non-neutral postures lead to an increase in load on the joints, muscles, and ligament tissues. The body’s capacity to endure these loads reduces over time, which starts out as feeling discomfort and eventually results in pain. While sitting or standing, be mindful of the following:

Sitting

  • Feet flat on the floor
  • 90° bend in the legs and arms
  • No pressure on the back of the knees
  • Arm and back support
  • Relax shoulders

If the feet do not touch the floor, consider getting a footrest or stacking printer paper. If the arms aren’t at a 90° bend, adjust your chair or sit on some pillows. You can always add items such as books, pillows, packages of paper, etc. to adjust yourself to a proper seated position if an adjustable chair or desk isn’t available.

Standing

  • Feet flat on the floor
  • Hips, knees, and ankles are aligned
  • Neutral Spine
  • Relaxed shoulders

It is best to alternate between sitting and standing to distribute the load put on the body. The body in a prolonged stationary position results in issues such as neck and shoulder pain, increased risks of heart-related issues, and more.

Optimize Workspace

Moving to a work from home situation can be difficult without the right setup. The workspace is where the magic happens. Therefore, you want to make sure you can operate at your maximum level of productivity. As well as ensure that you’re comfortable and not at risk of pain or injury during work. There are several factors that contribute to making your home office ergonomically friendly. Many of these factors happen right at your workstation.

Chair

When setting up your chair, consider the angle and height of each component of the chair. The chair should be adjusted to fit you prior to adjusting other workstation elements: desk, monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. It is important that your feet are flat on the floor and knees at a 90° bend. If your feet don’t touch the floor, consider buying a footrest or stack something sturdy beneath the feet (books, small boxes, etc.). Check out this short video from the California State Fund detailing chair adjustment for the workstation.

Keyboard & Mouse

There are different setups based on what type of computer you have. With a laptop as the main use for work, consider getting an external keyboard and mouse. Center the keyboard with the mouse directly beside it. Remember to bring them closer so that the elbows have a 90° bend. Avoid moving from the shoulder when using the mouse. Move from the elbow to prevent overuse of the shoulder, which can result in muscle strain and pain.

Desk

An adjustable height desk is a convenient and ergonomically friendly addition to the office. Many health issues can arise from not having a desk with adjustment capabilities. However, if an adjustable height desk is not available to you, then you can use sturdy objects around the house. Stack your laptop or monitors on some crates or boxes to switch from sitting to standing. Alternatively, an ironing board makes for a temporary standing desk solution!

Monitor

If using a laptop, an external monitor is recommended. Be sure to set the main monitor directly in front of you (arm’s length away) with the top at or slightly below eye level. If using two monitors equally, be sure to align them so that you are in the middle of the two. This will help to avoid twisting in the chair and causing muscle strain. If an external monitor is not available, use items (kickstand, books, etc.) to prop the laptop up to eye level.

Footrest

The addition of a footrest for your workstation is one of the many ergonomic practices to implement with ease. If unable to purchase a footrest, any sturdy flat-surfaced object will do. Be sure the feet are planted firmly on the surface with the legs at a 90° bent.

Phone

Proper phone use at desk

If there’s a corded phone at your workstation, position the phone on your non-writing side to avoid cradling the phone to the shoulder while taking calls, which may result in neck pain. Consider getting a headset if on the phone most of the day.

Practice Makes Perfect!

Many elements contribute to a productive and comfortable work from home experience. Office ergonomics may seem overwhelming, but at least one of these practices put in place will improve your working experience. Whether you’re doing some stretches to combat muscle fatigue, correcting your posture, or adjusting your chair to fit you, every little bit helps in ensuring you have a safe and productive workday!

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