Due to COVID-19 more and more of us are working from home! It’s therefore important to set up home office workstations that are safe and don’t negatively impact on your physical health and well-being.
Setting up a home office space that’s safe and comfortable will help you stay focused and productive. An ergonomic home office It will also reduce the risk of injury so that you can work without putting undue strain on your body.
Setting up home office workstations so that they are tailored to your own body is a no-brainer! The following tips will help you when setting up a home office space so that it’s comfortable, productive, but more importantly injury free!
Home Office Workstations
Many office work injuries are sustained over a long period of time. These injuries aren’t always obvious, instead they creep up on you. While they can take time to become apparent, they can none the less have a negative effect on your body and comfort levels. Worse still they can affect your health in the longer term.
When setting up ergonomic home office stations you need to consider the kind of work that you do. You also need to determine what equipment you need to carry out that work.
It’s important to consider how you normally spend the bulk of your work time. For example, do you sit and type for hours at a time? If there is a job that you do for extended periods, it’s essential that you customize your workstation so that you are safe and comfortable for that task.
When setting up a home office space consider what equipment you need to do your job efficiently.
- Do you need a desktop, laptop, or tablet?
- How many monitors do you need? Consider the optimal size of monitors.
- Do you refer to books or physical records often?
- Are there other devices that you need, such as a microphone or stylus?
- Is your desk large enough to fit everything that you require?
Other elements that may impact on your health and well-being include ergonomics, ventilation and lighting.
An ergonomic home office ensures that the main elements don’t cause you any musculoskeletal injuries to the neck, back and wrists.
Musculoskeletal injuries are injuries that affect your muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and/or joints. These injuries occur as a result of inadequate equipment set up, poorly designed equipment, poor posture and/or poor work practices.
Musculoskeletal injuries include:
- muscle strains or sprains
- ligament or tendon damage
- back and neck pain
- irritated or inflammation of the shoulders or elbows
- carpal tunnel syndrome.
In order to reduce injury to your neck, shoulders and back, keep your head in a vertical position to your neck. The top of your computer or laptop screen should be at eye level.
Your sitting position should provide lower back support. Make sure the seat of your chair isn’t hitting the back of your knees because it can reduce blood flow and cause your feet and ankles to swell.
Your hands and wrists should be in a neutral posture, not hinged that the wrist. Take notice of whether your wrists bend when you type or use your mouse. It’s best to change your hand position regularly as this avoids occupational overuse syndrome.
While physical injuries can be avoided with a well-designed home office. It’s also important to consider your emotional and mental wellbeing. Working from home can result in feelings of isolation. It’s therefore important to keep in regular contact with your work colleagues.
Organize Your Home Office Space
We all come in different in sizes and heights. It therefore important to organize your home office space with adjustable equipment. This enables you to adjust home office workstations so that they meet your exact needs.
To avoid musculoskeletal injuries, it’s best to use height adjustable desks, chairs and laptop stands. Set up this equipment so that it feels natural and comfortable when used for extensive periods of time.
If you’re short, you may need to consider using a footrest. Always use a footrest if there is any pressure under your thighs. Pressure under your thighs can lead to pressure on the veins in your legs and pelvis area. This can cause major problems in the longer term.
Ergonomic home office workstations set-ups should take into consideration the position of different pieces of equipment. Set up your keyboard, computer, mouse, phone and monitor so that they are easily accessible based on the frequency of their use.
Once you set up your home office workstation only conduct your work in this area! This reduces the need to constantly adjust your workstation.
1. Adjustable Chair
Every ergonomic home office should have a good office chair that has the following features:
- Adjustable height.
- Adjustable backrest, both in a forward direction as well as a vertical direction to suit the length of your trunk.
- Short seat to allow full back support.
- Curved front edge of the seat that doesn’t push into the back of your legs.
- Stable base.
- Well-padded for comfort.
A good ergonomic home office workstation setup should ensure your feet are flat to the floor when you’re seated at your desk. Your legs should be extended from your body. And your body should be slightly tilted backward not hunched.
Consider adjusting your chair and/or lowering your desk in order to achieve this. Use a foot stool if your feet don’t rest flat on the floor.
Your desktop should assist your workflow not hamper it. Most desks are 27.5” or 700mm in height. If you’re short, see if you can get a shorter desk, or one that’s height adjustable. If not, raise the height of your chair and use a foot stool so that your feet rest flat on its surface.
The best desktop is one that has a light to medium coloured matt finish. It should be approximately 35.5” or 900mm deep. This way you’ll be able to place your screen at the best distance for you which is usually an arms distance away.
An articulated holder for your monitor screen or laptop is a useful tool. That’s because you can adjust it to suit your best working position. Make sure that the top edge of your screen or monitor is level with your forehead.
Once your monitor, keyboard and mouse are set up in the correct position, arrange all the other things that you use frequently so that they’re within easy reach. Things you use the most such as your phone, note pad etc, should be located closest to you.
If you have a sit-stand desk you need to use it properly. Remember that whenever you change the desk height, you must also adjust all your other workstation components. Readjust your keyboard and monitor so that your posture is in a neutral position.
If using a sit-stand desk, the optimal cycle is to work in a seated position for 20 minutes. Follow this with 8 minutes of standing. When people stand in one spot for longer than 8 minutes, they start to lean. This puts extra stress on the body as its out of its natural, neutral alignment. Follow each standing session with 2 minutes of moving around.
3. Use What You Already Have
It’s essential your workstation is set up correctly to ensure you’re working safely and efficiently. If cost is a hindering factor to buying quality office equipment, use what you already have on hand.
Inexpensive items can make a difference to comfort and be more ergonomically friendly. With a few adjustments you can make use of items that you already have at home.
For example, a rolled-up towel, or a cushion could be added to the back of your chair to provide lumber support. If your chair height is too low, you could sit on a folded-up beach towel to increase the chair height. Or slip a folded towel under your laptop to increase working height.
4. Provide Good Lighting
It’s important that your working surface is evenly lit, without shadows. If lighting is inadequate, consider using a desk lamp. Always ensure that the light source itself has a cover, and is kept out of your field of vision.
Bright sunlight on a computer screen makes focusing difficult. You can limit this by closing curtains or blinds to control screen reflections from bright sunlight. Never sit facing a screen with a window behind the screen.
5. Heating And Cooling
Your working environment should feel comfortable. This means that you should set up home office workstations in rooms that aren’t too hot or too cold. You can always adjust the climate within a room with air-conditioning or an over-head fan.
If that isn’t an option, try wearing lightweight clothing in summer and use a pedestal fan. In winter, rug up in warm clothing and place a safe heat source in the room. Don’t put a heater under your desk to warm your feet and legs. Because this can make you sleepy, or worse still, be a fire hazard.
How To Be Productive: Take Regular Breaks
The best way to be productive is to take regular short breaks. Short, regular breaks help you stay alert, they decrease boredom and help to increase concentration and productivity. Work breaks don’t necessarily mean that you have to stop working. It can mean that you change the task that you’re doing to performing a different task.
When working from home it can be easy to forget to take regular breaks. Sitting for long periods can cause future health problems so taking breaks is a necessity. Take frequent, short breaks every 20 minutes.
When you take a break, stand up and stretch out your limbs. Wriggle your hands and fingers to get the blood circulating and relieve tension. Refocus your eyes away from the screen on an object that is across the room for 20 seconds.
Whilst we all know that sitting for long periods of time is bad you, so is standing in one spot without moving. Standing in one spot puts more strain on your body than sitting. After standing in one spot for 8 minutes it’s best to walk around for a minute or two.
Regular exercise will help to tone you up so you don’t get a flabby stomach. This will help to clear your mind so that you can refocus once you are back at your desk. You’ll feel refreshed which will increase your productivity.
Summing up: Home Office Workstations
When setting up a home office work space it’s important to consider your health and wellbeing. The ergonomics, ventilation, and lighting of your home office will influence your comfort, motivation and productivity levels.
When you organize your home office space the placement of equipment and items is also important. Always place items that you use frequently closer to you than these that you don’t use often.
An ergonomic home office combined with regular work breaks will ensure that you remain injury free. This will allow you to continue to enjoy the benefits of working from home for many years to come!