How to make your home office more ergonomic
Seven cheap and easy tips for making your home office or workspace more ergonomic.
As COVID-19 spreads, workforces across the world are being encouraged to stay at home as much as possible. In the US, Twitter, Apple and Microsoft are mobilising staff to work remotely. In Australia, businesses including financial and legal firms, telecommunications companies and government departments are all moving to home-based working arrangements as restrictions are placed on the number of people able to gather indoors.
If you are facing weeks or possibly months of working from home, how can you set up a working environment that is ergonomically safe? Back pain, muscle aches and tension, and eye strain can all be a result of a poorly set up work station, so we asked some experts for their advice on how to create a healthy, injury-free work space.
If you're working from a laptop, buy a stand so that it sits at eye level.
How to set up an ergonomic working-from-home office
Check your chair height
If you’re working at your dining table, your chair may be too low, causing you to hunch and strain your neck and shoulders. “If you can only work on the dining table for now, sit on a cushion and use a footrest for extra support,” says David Hall, former chair of the Australian Physiotherapy Association Occupational Health group and physiotherapist at PHW Group. But in the longer term, you will need a work chair that is height adjustable, well padded, has a backrest that fits into the small of your back and that supports your back to the top of your shoulder blades. Your seat should also be flat or sloping upwards – not downwards.
Take regular standing breaks
When you sit at your desk and at your computer, it should be set at a height that allows your shoulders to be relaxed, not slumping forward. And as at work, don’t sit at your desk for longer than 30 minutes at a time. “If you can, use sit/stand technology,” says David. “You can get reasonably priced sit/stand desks so you can alternate sitting and standing while you work. Or use a device that fits to your existing desk and converts it to a standing desk.”
Buy a monitor, keyboard and mouse
Laptops aren’t designed to be used for prolonged periods. “Ideally, use a separate keyboard, mouse and screen with your laptop, and set each of these in comfortable positions,” says Ted Dohrmann, ergonomist at Dohrmann Consulting.
...Or get a laptop stand
A laptop stand is relatively inexpensive and will position your laptop closer to eye level so you don’t look downwards at the screen and so place unnecessary pressure on neck muscles.
Ensure you have enough light
If you are at your desk at home reading from hard-copy documents and are craning forward to see the print, then you need more light in your work space. A desk lamp can help. Minimise glare from your computer screen by keeping the screen out of bright sunlight.
Eliminate hazards where possible
“Be aware of tripping hazards,” advises Ted. “Power cables leading from power points to laptops and chargers can be a risk.” Keep devices and accessories in a safe place when they are not being used with cables tidied away and keep confidential or important documents in a secure place, too.
Limit couch time
Generally, your couch shouldn’t become your new work space. “Your couch can be appropriate for short periods of time depending on what you are doing – if you have some reading to do, for example,” says Ted. “But listen to your body. Don’t ignore aches and pains as they can be the first message from your body that something isn’t quite right.”
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