Work-from-Home Ergonomics: How to Work Efficiently at Home
Given the unpredictable and dire nature of the virus, most business owners have adopted a full-time remote work model for their staff members in order to sustain the company.
That’s a huge change from working in the office with all furniture and equipment provided for to using your own stuff at home. Thus, it can be a challenge for you to work efficiently at home.
So, in this guide, we will tackle the importance of proper ergonomics, rules of an ergonomic setup, and some practical tips to stay productive and healthy for your home-based work.
The Importance of Proper Ergonomics
You may often hear the term ergonomics when buying a product or working at an office.
With the former, it means “parts or qualities that make a product easy to use” and with the latter, it means the practice or study of working efficiently and safely in the office.
Here, we will be using the second sense when we mention ergonomics. Now, to be efficient in the office, it goes without saying that you should feel comfortable and relaxed the entire time you’re working.
You can’t give your best at work if you feel any pains and aches in your body due to having improper posture in front of the computer, hand-writing a letter, or speaking on the phone.
In addition to having the correct posture, you might also have to alter your work setup if you feel muscle strains or discomfort after even just a short while typing on your computer.
In fact, there have been increased reports of WFH people developing lumbar pain and weight gain, based on the research of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Because of the constant seating, your spine is the most affected part of the body. Additionally, wrist, leg, neck, and shoulder pain are also culprits of an incorrect posture whilst working.
As a result, people might not be able to work any longer whether they stand or sit. And to treat or alleviate the aching symptoms they feel, they go for a massage, physiotherapy, or chiropractic adjustment.
Keeping the Spine in a Neutral Position
You shouldn’t feel any pain and discomfort whenever you work at your desk in front of your laptop. Since lower back pain is the most common symptom for people working at home, it’s vital to focus on spine alignment first and foremost.
Getting it right enables other parts of your body, such as neck, shoulders, arms, and legs to be in the correct position as well.
So what you can do is to keep your spine straight, which is what most people say. However, it doesn’t have to be ramrod-straight—just natural and comfortable enough for your spine.
To show you what we mean, if you see a spine diagram on a person, you will notice that it isn’t utterly straight but curved almost like an S, which is natural. And because it’s natural for the body, it’s easier to maintain a correct spine alignment than not.
The right posture means that you don’t slouch, lean to the side, or be too far from the laptop whilst typing. Sometimes, though, you may not notice that you have been doing it until you suddenly feel tired or weak.
Thus, you may have to adjust your back posture as you work to find where you feel most light and comfortable. If you feel any pain, remember to keep your back straight and natural; whereas if you feel healthy and comfortable when working, keep doing that.
Check out the simple diagram below of having a neutral spine, or in simple terms, sitting correctly.
The Best Ergonomic Set-Up for Remote Work
We all have unique home layouts and there can be a lot of places or areas to choose from to do our work. Wherever you choose to do your work and on what chair or table, the importance of an ergonomic setup cannot be understated.
So here are the guidelines for making your home workstation cosy, effective, and pain-free. Let’s start with choosing the right type of desk to get busy on.
You can work on any desk that’s sturdy whether that be in your dining room, bedroom, or terrace, so long as it allows you to be in the right posture.
Ideally, the desk should allow you to fit your thighs, knees, and feet underneath it. Also, you don’t have to squeeze in your legs just to fit them in.
Then, check the height, the table’s edge should be level or slightly below your bent elbows as you type.
However, if the table is too high, you can get a lower chair or adjust your office chair down. If you don’t have an office or gaming chair, you can improvise by putting a pillow or some books atop your seat.
No matter the kind of chair you have at home, you have to sit in the correct posture. As we mentioned, this means keeping a natural and straight back all the time you are working.
Some chairs also come with a headrest and lower back cushion for ergonomics. The lower back cushion follows the natural curve of your back so that you can prevent any painful sensation that can affect your work stamina and concentration.
But, if yours doesn’t have this lumbar support feature, you can just go DIY and put a small pillow or rolled towel on the chair against the small of your back.
Check that your feet are planted on the ground. If you need to elevate the chair high enough for your feet to dangle, you can use a footrest or stool chair for them.
Both of these have several advantages. These include aligning your posture, shifting your weight, preventing back strain, reducing fatigue, and easing ankle, foot and thigh pain.
Then, you have to see whether your arms are comfortable on the sides or resting on the armrests. If not, you can change the armrest height to the level where you can type easily or lounge on the chair.
You can do these adjustments from top to bottom, bottom to top, or without any sequence at all.
When you’re working in front of a computer, the monitor has to be ergonomically set up too. The same rule applies to computers and laptops irrespective of their screen types and sizes.
First, you should ensure that the top of the monitor is on or slightly below your eye level.
Furthermore, you should be able to look at the top third portion of the screen with your eyes without bending your neck.
By doing this, you can keep your neck and back straight all the time as you take on your work objectives. Still, if your monitor is too low, you can adjust your seat or put a riser or a pile of books under it.
Laptop stands are all the rage at this time, which can carry the laptop on its metal body and be adjusted to various levels to suit you as you work.
You can also tilt the laptop back to 10 or 20 degrees to reduce the screen glare and have a better posture whilst you send emails, write an article, or start a Zoom chat with your superior.
When it comes to keyboard placement, your elbows should be level with or slightly below the table’s side, your wrist should be relaxed and nimble whilst typing, and your arms should not be restricted in movement and feel any pain and discomfort.
Apart from that, you have to be aware that each keyboard is made with different tilts. What we mean by this is that some slope up to the top portion, whereas others have a flat or even a negative tilt (slope down from the bottom), which promotes better wrist position as you write.
Now, if your arm and wrist positions are correct yet you still feel aches when typing, the problem may be on the keyboard itself. Fortunately, we have some tricks that you can do to alleviate this: put rice in a sock or use a small rolled towel to give good support to your wrists.
For workers who use a mouse for their computer or laptop, it should be by your keyboard and slightly above it. Also, it should be on the side of your dominant hand and within easy reach.
If you feel it to be a bit low, you can get a mouse riser. This is kept in place on your desk or keyboard tray and allow you to point, scroll, and navigate websites without any effort, although it depends on whether or not the user is comfortable using it.
Best Practices for Working at Home Efficiently
You have to accustom your body to the rigours and challenges of working at home. Apart from your body posture and equipment, here are some simple things you can do to keep up your work performance:
The 20/20/20 Rule
Working with your eyes glued to the screen isn’t healthy. It makes your eyes dry, irritated, and heavy which will make you less effective and have a grand headache too.
So whenever you work at your computer, remember the 20/20/20 rule. This means that you should look away from the screen 20 feet away, for 20 seconds, after every 20 minutes of working to rest your eyes.
By doing this, you can work longer and more efficiently during the week. This way, you can also take care of your precious eyes and even possibly prevent a trip to the eye specialist and save big bucks.
Incorporate movement into your work routine
Working from home is a sedentary lifestyle where you can burn significantly fewer calories than if you go out to the office, leading to increased weight and stress.
For this reason, you have to exercise consistently several times in the week. Even if you have a full schedule, you can always give time for it even as short as thirty minutes twice or thrice a week.
Running and skipping rope are great-to-do exercises that refresh you in the morning and prepare you for the hard tasks of the day. By engaging in physical activity, your mind will work faster, sharper, and most of all, you feel good.
Take frequent breaks from work
Taking frequent breaks from work helps a lot. This way, you won’t exhaust yourself with the work before you, but you can rejuvenate yourself instead, which raises your productivity as a result.
You can take a break every thirty minutes to an hour of working. And it won’t take long as you can just stand up and grab a glass of water, do a quick chore, walk around the house, look at the view outside, or the like.
Furthermore, you can set aside a schedule for doing a 5-minute yoga or pilates, run on the treadmill (if you have one at home), run an errand, meditate, or take a quick nap if you’re tired.
Use a standing desk
Sitting for much too long can cause you to feel back and neck pain, heaviness, or muscle weakness. You might also begin to feel that you are stuck in your job routine.
To deal with those issues, you can stand and type away at your computer with a standing desk. In addition to giving you variety in your day, you can burn extra calories, albeit only slight compared to working whilst seated.
The catch here is that a standing desk can double up as a sitting desk owing to modern ones’ adjustable feature.
Now, the same rule applies here to monitor, keyboard, and mouse placements. Don’t forget that your back has to be straight and natural when you are standing to work.
Also, you may have to test and adjust which posture is the most comfortable for you. And we advise standing for short periods first such as 30 minutes a day and increasing the duration a bit from there.
Adjust to your work environment
Make sure that you’re comfortable in the WFH environment you’re in. Bring at least two face towels to wipe dirt or wet hands so you don’t have to go to your room’s closet frequently.
Put a tumbler (make sure it’s closed, though) or a glass of water beside you to stay well-hydrated and energetic throughout the day to finish your work at hand.
Also, put a towel on your back or change your clothes quickly if they are soaked in sweat to prevent coughs and colds.
Workers can work from home safely and efficiently with the proper posture and right equipment. The advice and tips we’ve shared with you here are simple to do and incorporate into a habit.
By following them, you can go on from day to day feeling motivated, healthy, and happy to work. This is because you know how to take care of your body for that, particularly your eyes, lower back, shoulders, and neck.