Remote work has become more popular in recent years. This has led to increased interest in creating the ideal home office. Ergonomics — sometimes referred to as comfort design — can help.
Creating an ergonomic workspace at home is not only about comfort — but also about promoting health and productivity.
Poor ergonomics can lead to health issues, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, back, neck and shoulder pain. Taking the time to create an ergonomic workstation is a crucial step to working safely and efficiently from home.
“It is essential to prioritize our health during the current work-from-home era,” says Ali Bagheri, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines and Scripps Clinic Mission Valley. “Creating an ergonomic workspace takes some time and investment, but the payoff in productivity and well-being is well worth it.”
Here are seven tips to help you improve your workspace and promote health and well-being.
Maintaining good posture is critical for an ergonomic workspace. Make sure your head is up, your back is straight and your shoulders are relaxed. An ergonomically designed chair with good lumbar or lower back support can help in maintaining this posture.
Sit to the back of the chair for best support and avoid flexing your lower back or slouching. Place your feet firmly on the floor or a footrest for support. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor. This will give your body, including your arms, a good base of support.
If necessary, improvise to help get the best position possible.
- Use an additional backrest for improved support and/or to shorten the functional depth of the chair.
- For back support, use firm pillows.
- Use a solid box, kids step stool, or turned-over storage container to support your feet.
One common mistake when setting up a home office is placing the computer monitor stool too low or too high.
Place your monitor at arm’s length away. Position it at eye level in line with top of screen. This will help you avoid bending your neck.
Raise your monitor to the appropriate height by placing it on a stand or a stack of books. You should not have to tilt your head back to read the screen.
If you use two monitors, place them in an “open book” position so that you can use eye movements to view the screens. This will help keep your neck in a neutral position.
When typing or using your mouse, your shoulders should be relaxed, not hunched or rounded.
Your keyboard and mouse should be placed in a position that allows your elbows to remain close to your body and your arms at about a 90-degree angle. An adjustable keyboard tray can help ensure these conditions.
“It is fatiguing to the arms to hold them in a forward position and requires more work from your back to support them,” Dr. Bagheri says.
If you use armrests, they should be positioned near the same level as the keyboard and mouse. Armrests can help support your upper body and prevent slouching.
While typing or using a mouse, make sure your wrists are in a neutral position, not bent up, down, or to the sides. This can help prevent issues, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
An adjustable keyboard and mouse platform can support this neutral wrist posture. A wrist rest can help you position your wrists correctly while typing.
The mouse should be placed next to the keyboard within a comfortable reach. Be sure not to extend your arm to reach the mouse. Your shoulder and elbow angles should remain the same as when you are typing.
Allow your hand to rest on the mouse. Move the mouse with your whole arm, not just your wrist. This is true for standard mice.
Ensure that all your necessary tools — pens, notepads, phone — are within easy reach to prevent overstretching or twisting your body.
It is easy to get caught up in work and remain in one position for extended periods. However, sitting for prolonged periods can lead to muscle fatigue and strain.
“It’s crucial to shift between sitting and standing throughout the day,” Dr. Bagheri says.
Consider investing in an adjustable height desk, often referred to as a standing desk. This way, you can easily alternate between positions, reducing the risk of strain and promoting circulation.
Taking short breaks to stretch is essential. Short breaks can help in maintaining flexibility, reducing stiffness and promoting blood flow. Simple stretches for your head and neck, shoulders, and wrists can go a long way in maintaining comfort during the workday.
“Our bodies are not made to sit all day,” Dr. Bagheri says. “It is important to take regular stretch and eye rest breaks throughout the day. Get up and move around when you can, walk or exercise to rest your body and your mind.”
Set a reminder on your phone to prompt you to stand up every 20-30 minutes. Take a quick 30-second walk around your house.