Keeping Ergonomics in Mind When Working From Home
As swaths of people are being asked to work from home recently, we’ve been thinking about our best coping tips for working from home, managing COVID-19 related anxiety and panic and taking care of yourself and your loved ones during this uncertain time.
Whether you are working from home for the first time or a seasoned pro, we decided that on top of taking care of our mental wellness we can all learn more about how to best take care of physical wellness while working from home.
That’s why I reached out to True Therapy Group founder and Occupational Therapist, Sarah Timleck, for a quick Q & A to share some tips on how to maximize your health when working from home.
Q. I’ll admit it. When I think of working from home I imagine myself working from my warm, cozy bed and I can almost guarantee that I am not alone in these magical thoughts. For those who don’t usually work from home and are considering working from our beds, what pros and cons should we be considering.
A. As an Occupational Therapist my focus is on educating you on helpful strategies to maintain a healthy posture and seating position to ensure you are taking care of yourself while working. Let’s start with the cons of working from bed:
- You are sitting in a position without proper alignment of your spine because you do not have adequate support.
- Your head is positioned in forward flexion which can cause neck, back and shoulder pain.
- Typically our mattresses are a plush surface which impacts your ability to sit in any alignment from your hips upwards.
- Working from bed could also increase your level of fatigue.
- May increase eye strain because your screen may be too close.
- When working in bed, you will be using a laptop, which is usually not ideal because your screen is too low causing you to look down and your keyboard is no at the proper position. Ideally it is best to have your elbows bent to 90 degrees and palms flat on the surface.
Now that you understand some of the challenges, let’s chat pros of working from bed.
- You’re cozy! It’s a nice change, feels like a treat! Feels luxurious!
- If you are going to work from bed use a foldable “breakfast in bed” type table, although not an ideal option, it could provide short term support and positioning. Please take rests breaks every 20 minutes if you choose to do this!
Q. I’m tempted to go to Ikea and EQ3 to buy a whole new home office setup but rationally I know I shouldn’t blow through my savings account now. What can I do to set up my space to make it more ergonomic?
A. Great question, especially managing finances during a time of stress. As for strategies to make your space more ergonomic:
- Know your day, breakdown tasks into percentages like how much time on phone/computer/keyboarding/meetings.
- Get a wireless headset for long calls to avoid neck strain.
- Make sure you reduce eye strain by reducing glare, 20/20 rule look 20 ft away every 20 mins.
- Tight neck and shoulders could mean reaching too far across a desk, improper monitor height.
- Make sure if you have dual monitors they are of equal height.
- Use a document holder to avoid repetitive strain.
- Check your seat height to make sure elbows are bent to 90 degrees and palms flat on the surface of the desk.
- If your feet dangle, get a footrest.
- Don’t rest feet on wheels of the chair.
- Take breaks often to do desk stretches.
- Keep frequently used items within arm length reach to avoid straining muscles.
Make sure your desk chair has adjustability for seat height, tilt, back height, lumbar support. There should be 2” clearance between your calves and the seat cushion.
Use a sit stand desk with an anti fatigue mat to change positions while you work, change positions frequently.
Keep hydrated through workday.
Computer screen should be fingertip length away.
Q. What are the top three things I should keep in mind when it comes to working posture and work-from-home set up?
A. If you only pay attention to three things, keep these three at the top of your list.
Upper extremity alignment: Keep your elbow close to your body and your shoulders in a relaxed neutral position, limit the amount of pressure you put on your wrists.
When talking on the phone we recommend the use of a headset versus talking directly on your cell phone which can cause repetitive neck strain
Take frequent microbreaks to stretch and move and reset your position. Stay hydrated
Q. Is there anything that I should consider that I’m likely not?
A. I think some additional important considerations are:
Making sure your screen distance is the proper distance away: to check this extend your arm in front of you and your screen should be just past your fingertips.
Creating structure and making a plan to maintain productivity. Know your day, breakdown tasks into percentages like how much time on phone/computer/keyboarding/meetings.
Plan your breaks. Consider outdoor breaks for movement, or a change of scenery and fresh air!
Q. If I was going to buy one thing to help me work from home what would you recommend?
A. Being assessed for a proper chair and foot support system, this can make the world of difference for injury prevention and your comfort. Allowing you to get through an entire work day without straining your muscles and impacting your posture which can increase the feeling of fatigue.
Q. I’m a manager and unsure of how to help my team with this. Do you offer consultations with teams?
A. Yes we offer in-home consultations and we thoroughly recommend having an assessment of your ergonomic set up of your in home work space including assessing for a proper office chair and foot support system.
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