During the COVID-19 crisis many of us are relocating to a new work environment, our homes. Working from home is not without challenges, personal and professional. When preparing to work from home we tend to focus on the equipment: laptop, printer, monitor and internet connection. While this is important, we should also be mindful of where we choose to work within our homes and the ergonomic settings.
Initially working from the couch or your favorite recliner may sound enticing, but in the long term, it is not ergonomically healthy for your physical self. Awkward positions may cause us to experience fatigue and discomfort, and if not corrected, leaves you vulnerable for muscle, tendon, ligament and nerve damage.
Here are some ergonomic tips to consider no matter where you work:
- Check the position of your computer, ideally, the top of the monitor should be just under eye level. Laptops make the ideal position more difficult.
- Change your posture and position often, try not to slouch.
- Place a pillow on your seat.
- Drape a towel or blanket over the back of a chair to soften it.
- For lower back pain, roll a small towel and place it in your lumbar region.
- Your hips and thighs should be at a 90-degree angle when sitting in your chair, one way to adjust this is to raise your feet by placing them on a small box, a board or book.
- Avoid cradling your phone between your neck and head, utilizing headphones or a headset.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Keep your keyboard set at elbow height; wrists kept neutral
- If your work surface is too high, raise your chair. Ideal height on average is 28 to 30 inches.
- Reduce eye strain by blinking more often, use proper lighting and adjust the display settings on your computer to reduce the brightness of the white.
- During conference calls, if you can, try to stand for at least part of the call.
- Take scheduled stretch breaks every 25 minutes, but a minimum of once every hour for at least 5 minutes
- Get up from your chair and move.
- If you cannot get up stretch from a seated position.
- Force yourself to move by intentionally placing needed objects away from the desk.
- Get a drink of water, let the dog out.
- Set an alarm at the end of the day and make sure you walk away from your desk and shut down your computer. It’s easy to get into something and find it’s 6:30 PM and you’re still working.
- Don’t eat lunch at your desk—get up, take a walk, walk the dog, do anything you can to break up your day.
If your body is feeling pain, consider the tips provided above. There are good sources of information available on the internet for setting up your home office and stretching. If you’re an essential employee working in retail, make sure you also consider your health and safety and the ergonomic settings at the retail checkout. Making an adjustment to your workspace and adding some movement into your day will make a difference to your health. Working from home has great advantages if you’re in the right mindset.