Now more than ever we are needing to work from home. Many of us have been forced to do this with little or no time to set up a workplace, let alone one with the ergonomics that are appropriate for the individual. These tips can help make the setup affordable, keep you productive and stay injury free.
- Find the best location
- Do not resort to working on the floor, on the couch or worse - in bed.
- Set up a proper workstation preferably so you do not have to pack it up each time the family needs to eat.
- If you have a spare room, set it up as your workspace - quiet, productive and away from others in the household that may cause distractions. You may need to move some furniture in larger rooms to set up a table to work on. It is a good idea to talk to your employer to reimburse you for some of the expenses if you don’t have a desk, office chair, computer
Comfort is the Priority
- Try to avoid working from a dining room chair. Ideally you should bring home your work chair and use it at your home office. Otherwise invest in an ergonomic chair, on that can adjust for height, depth and tilt, has arm rests and can swivel.
Position the monitor and keyboard correctly.
- The monitor should be directly in front of you. The top of the screen should be at eye level. The distance should be about arm’s length away.
- If you are working from a laptop prop it up on a stand or with some books so that it is positioned at the correct height. You will then need to connect a wireless mouse and keyboard. The keyboard should be close enough to you so you don’t overreach and should allow you to maintain a neutral wrist position with enough space for the wrists to rest on the desk. Your shoulders should be comfortably relaxed, with your head not tilting down.
- Position the height of the chair so that your elbows rest just above the desk height and should be parallel to the floor. There should be about a 90-120 degree bend in the elbows
- A lumber support will improve spinal alignment. If your chair does not have lumbar support use a lumbar roll or small cushion. The lumbar support should be placed in the curve of your lower back.
- Your hips should be at about 90 degrees with your feet on the floor. If you are unable to reach the floor with your feet use a footrest.
- If you have an adjustable desk or an adjustable workstation it is great to be able to transition between sitting and standing. Even if you do a DIY by lifting up your monitor and keyboard this will make a welcome change to sitting all day.
- There should be enough lighting to enable you to easily read documents and books.
- If you are communicating via teleconference, make sure your face is well lit so you can be seen clearly from your webcam.
- Take regular breaks to move. This is essential. Get out of your chair every 30 minutes to stand, walk, stretch or do some quick easy exercises. Doing some daily tasks is a great way to break up the sustained postures.
- Take longer breaks throughout the day to give your body a rest from the sustained working positions. Still have your morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea breaks.
Reduce the repetitive movements.
- Many musculoskeletal injuries are caused by overuse or repetitive movements, even in good biomechanical positions. Repeating the same motion over and over can lead to stress, breakdown of tissue and injury. The best way to avoid this is to change the tasks regularly. Doing something different, even if it is for a short time can take the pressure off joints and muscles.
Avoid sustained postures
- Remember it is the sustained postures that are the biggest issue. You can still run into problems if you spend too much time in the one position. This is why it is crucial to move regularly. Also, you can have the world’s best ergonomic setup at home and still slump, putting strain on your muscles and joints. So be active while you are working at your workspace. Move in your seat, change the position of your feet, squeeze your butt, twist in the chair, roll your shoulders and look around the room regularly.
Use a headset.
- If you spend considerable time on the phone it is important to use a headset, or headphones so you do not have to constantly hold the phone to your ear. This will also help to free up your hand so you can type effectively. Never, ever cradle your phone in your ear with your shoulder.
And here’s another tip-
- use the time that you would normally be travelling to and from work to do some exercise. Go for a long walk, jog or go for a bike ride. Staying physically fit is vital. Did you know the government guidelines for exercise advise us to be physically active every day, do muscle strengthening exercises and minimise the time spent in prolonged sitting.
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