Home Office Ergonomics for First-Timers
You’re now working from home, and chances are, if you don’t have a dedicated home office, you’re set up at the dining table or sitting on the sofa with a laptop. And, as you may be discovering, these makeshift offices are not the best for your body — maybe you have a twinge in your neck, or you’re experiencing lower back pain or even sore wrists. Proper office ergonomics can help alleviate this discomfort and keep you productive.
Here is a short guide:
- Choose a chair that supports your spine and adjust the height so that your feet rest flat on the floor. If you don’t have an adjustable office chair, use a footrest (a stack of books will do) so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Use a lumbar or back pillow to support your spine and relieve pressure.
- Place your monitor directly in front of you at eye level (consider investing in a separate computer monitor to help alleviate neck strain if you use a laptop full time). Adjust placement if you wear prescription glasses.
- Place your keyboard or laptop within easy reach, keeping your wrists straight, upper arms close to your body and forearms parallel to the floor. Tip: If you plan to use a tablet or laptop for longer durations, use a tablet stand or laptop riser to avoid neck strain, and use a separate keyboard and mouse to keep wrists straight.
- Employ other tools to help you stay comfortable, such as an ergonomic mouse and hands-free headphones if you’re on the phone a lot.
- Consider using a voice-to-text app or dictation software if your job requires constant typing.
- Adjust the display brightness properly so you aren’t straining to see your screen. Follow the 20/20/20 rule: For every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Use brighter task lighting for paperwork and lower lighting for computer work.
- Take microbreaks for at least 1 to 2 minutes every half hour to walk or stretch. Tip: Set a timer to remind yourself.
Standing Desks: Are They for You?
A few years ago, the benefits of using a standing desk got a lot of attention. While these desks may work for some, ergonomic experts say that it’s all about using them correctly. Sure, sitting all day can cause stiffness, muscle pain and weakness, but so can standing all day — just in different areas. Your best bet, whether you sit or stand at a desk, is to change positions often (sit, stand or walk) and take frequent breaks to keep muscles strong and limber.