4 Ergonomic Tips to Keep You Comfortable While You Work From Home
By Brynne Terry
No more sit-to-stand desk while you work from home? No problem! Follow these simple ergonomic principles to ease the transition to WFH, keeping your body happy and healthy.
As the global workforce is adjusting to working from home, you may be missing the luxuries of having an ergonomic setup at your office desk. You may have had the fully adjustable ergonomic chair, the dual-monitor screens set up just for you by an ergonomic specialist, a fancy footrest, and the coveted sit-to-stand desk. Now you may find yourself making do with nothing but your laptop and dining room chair and table as your new “office.” By utilizing a few ergonomic principles, you can transform your new, barely sufficient workstation into one that actually serves as a functional and comfortable working space. All it takes are some simple adjustments and a few household items.
Principle 1: The 90-90-90 Rule
The 90-90-90 rule is a simple way to remember that the angle of your ankles, knees, and hips should each be at around 90-degrees (a right angle) while seated in your chair. While you may not have a fancy office chair at your home, there are still ways to provide sufficient support despite the lack of adjustable features. Sit all the way back in the chair and even if your backrest isn’t adjustable, use it! This will help maximize the support you do have and prevent any perching on the edge of your seat or slouching, which can cause strain on your back. Make sure your feet are planted on the ground, as dangling will result in extra pressure on your lower back. If your only available chair is too high to bear weight through your feet on the floor, paper reams, books, or boxes can act as great footrests, elevating the ‘ground’ surface. Chair too low? Try adding a folded towel or a firm cushion to your seat to add a few extra inches.
Principle 2: The 20-20-20 Rule
Every 20 minutes you spend looking at your computer screen, spend at least 20 seconds looking at an object that is 20 feet away. This will give your eyes a necessary break and help to reduce the amount of strain on your eye muscles.
Principle 3: Your Posture Always Follows Your Eyes
When it comes to posture, it’s always important to consider where your eyes are looking. Your screen position will dictate your posture – if it’s too high or too low, your neck will fall out of neutral alignment. To ensure the proper height of your monitor, keep it at arm’s length away, with the top of the screen about one inch above your direct eyeline. If your only computer option is a laptop, consider investing in an external mouse and keyboard so you can prop your laptop up to an appropriate height. If you don’t have the means to purchase external equipment, be sure to move your laptop height throughout the day. Switch off between a comfortable neck position, where your chin is tucked so that your ears align directly above your shoulders, and a comfortable typing position, where your shoulders are relaxed, your elbows are by your side and open to just over a 90-degree angle, and your hands rest lightly on the keyboard.
This brings us to the last and most important ergonomic principle…
Principle 4: Move Often
In the world of ergonomics, the number one thing to remember is to avoid prolonged static positions in order to prevent musculoskeletal disorders. Even if you have the perfect desk setup, sitting or standing all day in the same position will lead to discomfort in the long run. Aim to move around, either at or away from your workspace at least once every hour – even better if you can manage every 30 minutes. Try simple stretches – like these from The Back School, drink lots of water (bathroom breaks!), and keep some frequently used items away from your desk to promote movement throughout the day.
Brynne Terry, MA, OTR/L, CEAS I is an occupational therapist and certified ergonomics assessment specialist. She completed her B.A. in Human Performance and her M.A. of Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California, and is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy at Boston University. Her passion is promoting health and wellness through lifestyle modification, the practice of self-care, and education on the impact of daily habits and routines on immediate and long-term health. Visit her website, www.bewellbalance.com for more health and wellness resources.
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