Working from home? Work safe! - Medicine in Motion
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Working from home? Work safe!

working from home

21 Apr Working from home? Work safe!

With everyone spending a lot more time at home and so many of us transitioning to working from home it is SUPER important to have a good home office set-up to avoid potential back, neck (and heart) ache.

Now although the lounge/laptop set-up is extremely tempting, there are a few key components that can be easily changed to make an effective home office space to work in. I also find having a desk or space
that I can walk away from at the end of the day really helps with defining the end of the day and separating work and home.

Okay, so what I think is the most important aspect of an ergonomic home office is screen placement! The ideal position for your screen is your arm length away from you with the top third of the screen at your eye line when sitting in your chair and looking forward, with your chin 90 degrees to the floor (to be quite specific). If you are working from a laptop I would highly recommend propping the screen up and getting a wireless keyboard and mouse. If your screen is too high or low this will inevitably cause neck pain. You can prop your screen up with textbooks, shoeboxes etc.

On another note in regards to screens, you may have heard of the 20x20x20 rule.

This rule means that every 20 minutes you should look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to help with digital eyestrain. Personally, I think that every 20 minutes we should be getting out of our chair to complete a brief stretch or even walk to the printer so these two activities could go hand in hand really well.

It’s time to talk chairs. Not dining chairs, desk chairs. Please invest in a proper desk chair and do not rely on your dining chair (or similar) to get the job done, especially if you are going to be sitting in it all day to get your job done. The ideal chair will be all kinds of adjustable to suit your height, thigh length and spine. I understand this isn’t always possible and these types of chairs can become very expensive!

In saying that there are some tweaks you can do to make your chair more suitable.

Firstly, the ideal chair would:

  • Be height adjustable to suit you and your desk height.
  • Have a lumbar adjustment to support your lower back.
  • Have a backrest that provides support and stops at shoulder height.
  • Have a suitable or adjustable seat pan depth. Your seat pan should sit snug behind your knees when you are seated correctly. You do not want your seat to stop mid thigh so that your legs feel like they are dangling. You equally do not want a seat pan that that is too long and stops at your calf, making you feel like a 4 year old in a big persons chair.
  • Have a wide enough seat pan so you can sit supported and comfortably.
  • Have the option to tilt the seat pan to make sure your hips are in line with your knees.

 

Also important to note, I don’t like handles on desk chairs, for a few reasons. If there are handles on your chair, you are more likely to find yourself leaning on one or both and this will put your spine out of alignment. Handles also stop chairs from being pushed in correctly which makes people lean towards the computer or desk! If you can take the handles off your chair, please do.

Chair height needs to put your body in a position so that your elbows are at 90 degrees when your hands are resting on your desk with your shoulders relaxed. Your chair is too low if your wrists are above your elbows or your shoulders are shrugged.

Your chair is too high if your forearms can’t rest comfortably on the desk. You might find that after the height of your chair is correctly adjusted that your feet don’t reach the ground – as a short person I can relate. If this is the case you will need to find a suitable height footrest that will allow your feet to be propped up so that your knees remain at a 90-degree angle. I don’t have a proper footrest at home and am currently using a stack of A4 paper yet to be loaded into the printer. Get creative people.

If your chair does not provide the above supports you can make some home adjustments in the meantime, whilst you source a more appropriate chair! Cushions can help to give you a boost up to the right height; they can also help support your lumbar spine if placed at your lower back. Purchasing a back support is another option if you aren’t able to get an ergonomic chair.

Next up is your reach zone!

Essentially you need to be able to reach objects that you use frequently throughout the day without having to shift your posture, this would differ for everyone depending on what your daily tasks are although common examples are phones or stationary like pens. Items that you use occasionally or infrequently can be outside of your reach zone and this would include items like a
printer.

A quick note on phones. If you use the phone frequently or need to be able to type whilst on the phone, get a headset or at the least headphones. You really do not want to be squashing the phone against your ear and shoulder to free up your hands to write/type on a regular basis. Avoid at all costs.

Another great tip is to remember to drink lots of water. There are two reasons for this – the obvious reason of staying hydrated but also to promote regular breaks from the computer and your desk to walk to the bathroom.

Other factors that tend to be forgotten about include adequate lighting, appropriate temperature with heating and cooling, having a working fire alarm and if there is a form of secure file storage (if required).

And that’s a wrap. You should now have an ergonomic home office – congratulations.

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