Working from Home - Ergonomics and Wellbeing

In several circumstances staff may opt to work remotely and in some situations, they may be required to prepare to work remotely for prolonged periods of time. This pandemic is one of them, and as we take the necessary precautions and stay home, we need to avoid other health problems. Musculoskeletal health is one of these and poor ergonomics can lead to issues like low back pain.

Many of us likely do not have the same workstation setup at home that is available in our typical offices. A computer workstation at home may be a laptop computer on a couch, bed, or kitchen table. As comfortable as some options may sound, using an improper workstation setup for an extended duration can cause awkward posture which can increase the risk for ergonomic related injuries (or musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome). It is important to set up your workstation as best you can to prevent injury regardless of where you might work.

The ways to improve your work station at home are based on the standard ergonomic principles .

If you can, investing in a home office set up would be ideal. At times alterations, such as adding a keyboard tray to your current desk, purchasing a simple ergonomic chair, or if the budget allows, a height-adjustable table could be the necessary adjustment.

You could alternatively make simple changes to your workstation using things you already have in your home. Some simple tips for your home office setup include:

  1. Dedicated workspace: - It is a good idea to have a dedicated room or area of your house as your workspace location.
  2. Ambient light: - Ensure the location of your home office is well lit and as close to ambient lighting as possible to improve performance and reduce mental fatigue. You should also avoid glare to minimize eye strain
  3. Chair: - Use a pillow as a seat cushion if needed to raise your chair if your table is too high. A small cushion can be used for low back support
  4. Monitor: - Raise your monitor to eye level e.g. using books or a shoe box. If you don’t have a monitor, raise the laptop and use an external keyboard and mouse
  5. Keyboard and mouse: - An external keyboard and mouse are ideal to allow for ease of adjustment and ease operation. This will also reduce strain to your wrists and shoulders.
  6. Feet: - Support your feet using a foot/step stool or an old phone book or a small box.
  7. Telephone: - Place your phone on speaker or use a headset rather than cradling the phone between your head and neck, especially if you frequently talk on the phone and type or write at the same time. Hold the phone in your non-dominant hand if you must write as well.

While working, it is good to take care of your energy levels. Food, water and exercise are important.

  • Food Keep food in the kitchen. This will save space on your desk top for the keyboard, mouse and reference materials. It will also reduce chances of a messy accident. Snacks should be healthy too, keeping up your fruit and vegetable count (remember 5-10 portions of fruit and veg per day)
  • Water – Aim for 8 glasses a day. Apart from keeping you well hydrated, this also makes sure you take those muchneeded breaks.
  • Exercise – Gentle stretching every 15 minutes while at your work area and getting up to walk every hour will keep you feeling refreshed and free of stiffness and pain. A good work out in the morning or evening for at least 30 minutes will keep you in good health. You may also encourage breaks every 30 minutes for children studying on computers at home.

If you are living with a physical disability, you may consider making similar adjustments to your space to make it more comfortable such as resizing your desk to suit the height of your wheelchair, ensuring items on the desk are within reach, have ample space around the workspace for movement, minimize cables on your path and follow the guides above.

Plan your day and have a set routine. Do not forget to take regular fitness breaks and get some fresh air and sun too.

Here are some open source videos to summarize these tips

Keep Safe and Healthy!

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