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Tips for Home Office Ergonomics

man with neck problems sitting on his couch in front of a computer
Keeping your home office setup ergonomically sound can help prevent some chronic health/productivity issues.

Some of us might be working from a kitchen counter, dining room table or even our laps for a while, but that doesn’t mean our spines or wrists should get out of sorts. Painful carpel tunnel or posture problems can plague you long after you return to your office. Take the time now to set up more ergonomically appropriate work stations at home, and avoid a (literal) pain in the neck later.

Find a Buddy to Test Your Setup

If you don’t have anyone else at home, use a mirror, or record yourself from the side sitting at your new “home office”. You should look at a few different parts of your body while you work for a few minutes.

  • Where is your monitor? Do you have to look down to look at it (even a laptop) or is your monitor straight across from your eyes/face?
  • Where is your keyboard? Do you have to raise your hands above your elbows to type? Are your wrists straight while you type?
  • What kind of back support do you have in your chair?
  • Are your knees level with your hips while you sit?
  • Do you have a footrest or do your feet sit on the floor?
  • What other key items or tools do you use?
    • If you take calls on a traditional phone, are you holding the phone handle with your shoulder? Doing this for a long time might create pain in your neck or tightness in your shoulders. Consider a headset for your calls instead of using speakerphone or cradling the receiver.
    • If you need to take notes or use desk tools like a stapler or files, are they easily within reach?

Need a visual? Try this checklist from the National Institutes of Health or options from UC Berkeley on options for a user-friendly workstation.

 

Fix Any Workstation Problems

Once you have an idea of where you aren’t ergonomically correct, make changes to improve your positioning. This could mean trying out different chairs with various heights or back support, raising a monitor or laptop with materials like books or boxes or adjusting locations to make necessary work materials more convenient. Check your keyboard position and try to make sure your wrists are in a natural orientation, not too high or too low.

 

Try Out Different Options

  • If a traditional desk isn’t possible, try using a standing desk, even for part of your day. You may find more relief is possible if you’re not sitting all the time. Make sure your laptop is still at a correct height to not impact your wrists or hands in a way that might create carpel tunnel syndrome.
  • If a chair is a problem, consider using a stability ball, a ball/chair combo, or even a stability seat cushion which may help ease the strain on your back and engage your core. If you want to get a dedicated office chair at home, and you can afford the investment, it might save your aching back and offer easy adjustment options for your height.
  • You might also try using a laptop stand to prop up your device, and a separate Bluetooth keyboard to type. If you use multiple monitors, you can still do this at home with a laptop and monitor setup, but make sure you’re not tilting the wrong way to read your laptop while you work.
  • Lastly, make sure your workspace has the right lighting. You may not have spent a lot of time setting up a home office before a few weeks ago, and a dim overhead lightbulb isn’t cutting it. Check out desk lamps with energy-efficient LEDs or setting up near natural light by a window to ease eyestrain.

 

Know When to Rest

Finally, your best bet to great ergonomics might mean taking more breaks during your at-home workday. Breaks give your eyes, mind and body a rest and help you recharge so you’re not in the same position for hours on end.

  • Get up and move, get a glass of water, have a healthy snack and think about things other than work for a few minutes. Try to give your screens a break while you relax.
  • Nobody is around to see you stretch, practice yoga or even do some walks around your living room or yard to break up the day.
  • Taking breaks where you give your eyes and mind a rest is also a great way to fight stress and anxiety. Try one of these quick ways to take a break and calm your brain.
  • Try a few minutes of guided meditation and close your eyes or listen to an audiobook while you sip some water.

You’re all set to feel good while working from home!

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