Woman sitting at home office

How To Set Up a Home Office: Basic Ergonomic Tips

March 12th, 2020

According to an article recently published by Forbes, 43% of employees in the U.S. work remotely at least a portion of their time. Much of the younger generational workforce expect this as an option in a corporation and would even take a pay cut for this benefit. Only a third of businesses say they are prepared for this change in mindset and working culture and many still resist it. 

This could change with recent developments of COVID-19; many organizations are allowing employees to voluntarily work from home and are considering whether to require them to work from home. With a sudden change in working habits and location, many employees aren’t aware of the basic ergonomic principles of setting up a workstation and the impact it can have. Improper workstation setup can lead to discomfort and possibly injury, resulting in lost hours and cost to the organization and employee. 

To get yourself or employees at your organization the best possible support for a quick switchover to home office setups, use these basic tips to get started or contact our experts to schedule a virtual assessment. 

1. Location, Location, Location 

Where you set up your home office space matters. Don’t be slouching on the couch or leaning over an uncomfortable workspace. If you have a window in your space, avoid directly facing it where you’ll get glare, sit perpendicular to it, or close the blinds. If you’re working in a basement, consider using task lighting angled behind your screen to avoid a stark difference. You don’t want too much light or glare, or not enough light. 

Designate a specific place for work to help you maintain a work/life balance. If possible, a room with a door so you can leave your work behind at the end of the day. 

One of the most important steps in selecting the right location is to find the right surface height to sit at when performing much of your work. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle with shoulders relaxed. Kitchen tables are typically higher than you want, which could hurt your shoulders or neck. If your forearms are elevated, it could cause circulation issues or numbness. The best solution, of course, is a desk that is adjusted to the correct height for you, or even a card table which tends to sit a little lower. If you can’t secure a desk, there are other options or tricks to consider in the next section.  

2. Equipment 

When possible, use a chair with adjustable height. If your chair is too low, try sitting on a cushion to get to the correct height. A rolled-up towel or small blanket can provide lower back (lumbar) support as well. Instead of your regular dining room chair, the best solution is to get an office chair with adjustable height, tilt, and backrest.  

Your monitor (or laptop screen) height should be set up so that your line of sight is within the top third of the screen. If your screen is too low and you don’t have access to a monitor stand, use books or a ream of paper to elevate the screen.   

If you can procure an external keyboard and mouse, that works best for flexibility and space to spread out your shoulders and avoid having your forearms angled inward to access a small laptop keyboard. When using a laptop, you will need external equipment to elevate the screen. An external keyboard should sit below your laptop or in front of your desktop screen. 

3. Laptop Tips 

Many employees who don’t regularly work from home will be using a laptop instead of a desktop computer. This poses its own specific ergonomic considerations such as getting additional equipment.  Even though it is named a laptop, the general rule is not to put your laptop directly on your lap while working. It gives off heat and the position it forces your body to be in will not be comfortable or ergonomically correct. 

There is a variety of equipment available for the best possible travel and at-home setups with laptops that won’t break the bank that our experts can help you procure. 

4. A Simple Ergonomic Office Checklist 

• Feet flat on the floor 

• Knees at about a 90-degree angle 

• Hips at about a 90-degree angle 

• Elbows at about a 90-degree angle when typing and using a mouse 

• Wrists straight when typing and using a mouse 

• Monitor raised so that your line of sight is in the top 1/3 of the monitor 

• Take breaks to stretch every 30 minutes 

• Give your eyes a break from the screen 

If You’re Still Uncomfortable… 

Call in the experts to get the best support. Our consultants can do virtual assessments anywhere in the world. There may be cases where an expert ergonomic assessment is critical, such as with women who are pregnant, and we don’t want them or anyone to be spending hours working in an office setting that isn’t correctly set up for comfort and productivity.  

Ergonomics may seem like an insignificant concern, but regardless of your industry, it is important. Ergonomic concerns can quickly lead to ergonomic discomfort and possibly injury. Often these types of injuries can take a long time to resolve, leaving employees limited in their activities or possibly unable to work. Being proactive about setting up home offices correctly will put you ahead in the end. 

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR ERGONOMICS ASSESSMENT SERVICES.

 

IF YOU MISSED IT, CHECK OUT OUR ON-DEMAND WEBINAR LIBRARY FOR "GLOBAL ERGONOMICS: HOW TO MAP OUT A SUCCESSFUL PROGRAM."

 

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