Working from home offers a new set of challenges for employers and HR teams that don’t have the ability to control the ergonomics of employee’s work environments. They vary – from individuals with an actual office in their home to employees who don’t have space or budget to create an ergonomic desk setup.
We’ve compiled this list of tips from ergonomic experts at Yale University, the Mayo Clinic, and others for you and your employees so you can help provide a healthy direction and reduce injury.
Change your position about every 30 minutes.
There are some alarming statistics on sedentary work from Dr. James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic who reports that “sitting is the new smoking” and that the “chair is out to kill us.” For those of us who work at a computer all day, there are ways that we can combat the negative ramifications of sitting.
Merely working out, even seven days per week, is not as healthy as frequent moving. We know that for an employee to take a break every 30 minutes can border on impossible but standing and even performing stretches in your chair that you can do while on a conference call can be helpful and healthful. Check out this Workstation Stretching Routine from Yale University.
Your body position matters.
Living that laptop or mobile life can be complicated when working from home, especially in your head’s position when looking at your screen. To be ergonomically correct, you want to look straight ahead and not be looking down. For laptops, that may mean needing to get a lift, keyboard, and mouse (if space-constrained), or a separate monitor (recommended!). Make sure that your eye gaze meets the middle of your screen.
Also, earbuds or headphones are fairly ubiquitous these days – use it or the speaker function, so you’re not doing the classic holding your phone with your shoulder and head. That’s an ergonomic no-no.
Gaze into the distance!
You should look away from your screen to the furthest point you can and often. Through a window as far as you can see, or even the most distant point in your home. Eye fatigue can cause headaches simply from the unnatural glare of your screen. Also, Flux, which adapts your screen tone to the time of day, which decreases eye fatigue. It’s free and is widely used by big companies like Google, Microsoft, and Intel.
Your desk height and arms positioning.
Proper ergonomics are having your desk height so that your wrists are slightly below your arms, and your elbows are tucked in naturally against your body. And make sure while typing that your wrists are straight to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. Using a laptop keyboard is not conducive to all-day work and experts highly recommend a separate ergonomic keyboard like Microsoft Surface ergonomics keyboard – it has more space between the left and right hand and allows for natural arm and wrist alignment (straight wrists!).
Finding the right adjustable chair.
People are not one size, and chairs need to be adjustable to support our individual size. Raising a chair up or down to achieve that optimal view of your screen and the position of your arms will help you avoid injury when working from home.
Practice excellent posture.
Back injuries in the workplace due to poor ergonomics and posture have put people on permanent disability. Keeping your back straight and aligned and sit all the way back in your chair. According to Yale, “The ideal angle from your leg to back is 90 – 100 degrees.” Check out this visual guide from the Mayo Clinic.