Now more than ever, we are working from home. Makeshift offices have been set up, often at kitchen tables, armchairs, and living room floors. Last spring, we hoped that working from home would be short-term, lasting just a few weeks. It’s almost been a full year now, and with no clear end in sight, we need to ensure that our home workstation is set up optimally.
A poor setup for your workstation is not just a productivity issue. A badly planned and executed workstation can cause problems for our bodies, particularly our shoulders, wrists, necks, and arms. Take heart, though; with a review of your setup and some straightforward adjustments, you will be more comfortable and productive!
The reasons for “ergonomics” are compelling. Ergonomics simply means observing and assessing a work environment to determine how efficiently work can be done. Improper ergonomics can result in chronic pain. Many of us spend our workday at a computer or laptop. It’s easy to get wrapped up in work; we forget about posture, arm position, and what our lower body is doing.
When this happens, issues such as neck tension, wrist and forearm pain, lower back pain, and postural deviations can arise. Many of these conditions can sideline you, not just from your work but your leisure activities as well.
When assessing your at-home work station, consider the following critical components:
Ease of Use
Consideration of these five components must be given; think about the physical aspects of how you do your work and how your workstation is organized.
- Items that you use often should be within easy reach. Place items that you rarely use away from your desktop; needing them is a great excuse to take a walking break, do some stretches, and practice mindful breathing.
- Take a break on the hour, every hour. Include breaks that rest the eyes and shift your focus from nearby objects to far away ones.
- Choose a comfortable, adjustable chair that supports you well and includes lumbar support.
- When seated, your shoulders should be over your hips, and both knees and hips should be bent at a ninety-degree angle.
Your feet should rest comfortably on the floor, with your entire foot on the floor.
For even more benefit, organize your station to include a standing desk; a standing desk allows for more movement and fewer lower back issues.
- When using a laptop or keyboard, your arms should be fully supported all of the time.
- If this is not the case, your neck and shoulder muscles will be working overtime, leading to tension, knots, discomfort, and pain, all of which will impact your performance.
- Avoid slouching, and sit tall in your seat with your earlobes over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips. Slouching places an enormous load on your spine.
- Keeping your head in the correct position is important; think about keeping your head’s weight over the base of your neck.
- If you are straining forward all of the time, you will pay a painful price.
- Craning your head and neck forward may mean that your screen is too far away or that you may require eyewear.
- Your screen placement should not require you to turn your head and neck; the screen should be straight ahead with its top no higher than eye level (when your head and neck are ideally positioned).
- Do you talk on the phone a great deal?
- Are you holding the phone between your head and shoulder? This can lead to postural deviations, muscle imbalance, and pain.
- Opt for hands-free speaker or earbuds to avoid this issue.
- Your shoulders should always be down and relaxed to prevent muscular tension in your neck.
If you can, have a professional assess your workstation. Your employer may offer this service. A cost-effective alternative is to use one of the many ergonomic assessment tools available online. These tools range from straightforward tips to all-encompassing guides.
A little searching will find the right fit for your circumstances. While working from home, it’s easy to offer yourself extensive and effective recovery and relief during your workday.
Just because we are working from home, it doesn’t mean we cannot take a well-deserved and necessary wellness break!