As we continue to experience this long-lasting state of work from home, I feel terribly uncomfortable. Let’s face it, our homes aren’t necessarily equipped as workspaces, and we haven’t been told much that our lives would change so dramatically or for so long. If you’ve worked from home in the past few months, you may need an ergonomic exam. I know because I need one too – and I’m trained in ergonomics.
Ergonomics are essential for your work environment – wherever it is – to avoid stress for your body. Uncomfortable, repetitive movements can cause injuries to the musculoskeletal system. And since we all live under such insecure schedules for a safe return to work, it’s best to prepare our routines for the long haul. It is important that we make our current situation as supportive and healthy as possible. I am here to help.
These ergonomic principles ensure that you feel comfortable and productive from home during your working days.
1. Your chair
As tempting as it may be, avoid using the couch or lazy boy armchair as a work area. You may feel comfortable at the end of a long day at work, but you may not have enough postural support to do the computer work hour by hour. I recommend finding a sturdy, straight back chair, such as a kitchen, dining room chair, or ideally an office chair if you have one. It is important that your feet are firmly on the floor and that your back is well supported. Can you borrow your office chair from your employer’s office? Look into it.
2. Your desk
Your lap is not a substitute for a fixed work surface such as a desk or a kitchen table. Try to find something to pull your chair close to to support your computer and work documents. If you want to create a new workspace in your home, you should consider cheap folding tables that are height adjustable. When your remote working days are over, they can easily be saved or reused.
3. Your keyboard
Ideally, you want to position your keyboard so that your elbows are bent at an angle of 90 ° when typing. If you use a laptop and find that your workspace is too high,
Try connecting a separate keyboard. Most are connected directly to your USB port. This way your keyboard can be lower on your lap and your laptop can be on the table. There is so much more adjustability if your keyboard and monitor can be set independently. Ask your employer again if you can take your office keyboard home for remote use.
4. Your monitor
We usually want the top of the monitor to be level with the bridge of the nose. Reaching this height can be difficult if you are using a laptop. This would be a good time to connect a separate keyboard or external monitor. If you choose the keyboard route, your laptop can be supported on one or two books to increase the height regardless of the keyboard. Remember, if you wear progressive lenses, it may be more convenient to keep the monitor lower, as you may be viewing your screen through the bottom of your glasses.
Try to position yourself so that you are sitting perpendicular to a window. This provides a light source and minimizes any eye strain or glare.
Stay healthy while we continue to work from home this time. As always, contact your doctor if you have an injury requiring care. We’re here for you.
Dawn Hameline, OTR / L, ATP, CEAS, is an occupational therapist on rehabilitation therapies at the Medical Center at the University of Vermont.
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