For many working individuals, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic meant an abrupt transition from a workday in the office to a work-from-home situation. In March, many employees in Minnesota and across the country quickly created makeshift home offices—finding themselves sitting at the kitchen table or slouched on the sofa with their laptop propped up on their knees. The pandemic truly accelerated what has already been a growing trend in the workforce—the option and/or preference to work from home.
If you’re one of those individuals, now is a good time to rethink your home office and decide if it’s serving you—and your body—well. It may be time to make a few adjustments to create a more comfortable workspace—something optimal for proper body mechanics. An ergonomically-friendly workspace will reduce your risk for numerous musculoskeletal injuries. If you’re already experiencing a stiff neck or sore back, you can relate. If not, it may only be a matter of time. You may be at risk for these uncomfortable conditions and other more chronic problems. Being mindful of ergonomics of your work space can reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, headaches, migraines and more.
What is ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the practice of creating a work environment that best suits the worker. The intent is to consider your unique body structure, and design a workplace that promotes neutral posture and decreases repetitious movements.
Follow these tips to assess and improve your home office.
- Use a chair that has a backrest and lumbar support. You may add lumbar support by placing a pillow or towel roll in the small of your back.
- Adjust your chair’s height so that your elbows are bent at 90 degrees and remain close to your side while you work.
- If your feet don’t touch the floor, use a foot stool or box to support your feet.
- Use indirect lighting in your workspace to avoid glare on your monitor.
- Adjust your computer monitor so that it is about arm’s length from you and the top of the screen is at eye level. If you use dual monitors, align them so you are sitting in the middle of the two.
- If you are working from a laptop, elevate the monitor, with boxes, books or scrap wood, to eye level and attach an external keyboard and mouse. Keep your mouse close to your keyboard to avoid excessive reaching.
- Place your phone on your non-writing side and don’t cradle it with your shoulder. Consider investing in headphones if the phone is critical to your work.
- Move and stretch. Choose a few exercises to do while at your desk. Better yet, get up and move your body at least once every hour.