Ergonomics and Working from Home

One million people take time off work every year because of musculoskeletal injuries (also referred to as work-related musculoskeletal disorders), or disorders that affect the movement of the human body. This results in lost wages and decreased productivity. It can also increase your risk of incurring a more severe injury later on.

Improving ergonomics in the workspace has been proven to decrease the risk and severity of musculoskeletal injuries. Making just a few simple tweaks to your office space can help you avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor’s office down the road.

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is defined as the science of arranging the things people use so that interaction between people and things is most safe and efficient.

In the work environment, ergonomics examines the way people fit into their workspace. Understanding ergonomics helps us design spaces to better accommodate us and prevent repetitive strain injuries.

Our bodies are not designed to sit as much and for as long as we do. However, improving the ergonomics of your working environment can improve your tolerance for prolonged sitting.

Some common ergonomic risk factors of sitting improperly are strain on the lumbar, changes to posture, a restricted range of motion, a decline in cardiovascular fitness and physical strength, and permanent physical disability.  

Modifying Your Workspace

Perching over your kitchen counter, sitting on your couch, or laying in bed with your laptop may sound comfortable, but all of these workspaces increase your chances of developing pain, discomfort, and repetitive strain injury. While you may not have access to the ergonomic equipment of the office while working from home, it’s important to make sure your at-home workspace is sufficient to protect you from a long-term injury. If you don’t already have a desk set up, then this will be the first step for you in creating an ergonomically sound working environment for yourself.

You should be working on a flat surface in a seat with ample back support. Your desk should be high enough to comfortably accommodate your legs underneath. Your chair height, arm rests, and backrests should all be adjustable.

We know it’s hard to avoid the temptation of a plush chair, but there are a few ways to make a supportive chair feel plush. First of all, you can put a thin pillow underneath your seat. For the back of the chair, try folding a fluffy towel and draping it over. If you need additional lumbar support, you can try placing a soft cushion or rolled towel between the back of the seat and your lower back. The cushioning should be compatible with the natural curvature of your spine.

Your mouse and keyboard should be separate from your computer screen if possible. A mouse rest with forearm support is preferred. When you are typing, your shoulders and arms should be relaxed. Your elbows should be able to rest either on the desk surface or on arm rests that are just slightly below desk height. 

Elevate your monitor or laptop screen so that it is eye level. If the screen is not adjustable, you can do this using shoeboxes or books. Place any tools you might need, such as a phone or calculator, nearby to minimize reaching. (If you can’t comfortably reach something while sitting, then it is better to stand up to get it.)

Avoid cradling your phone between your ear and your shoulder. Opt to use a headset instead.

Remember to maintain good posture and not to lean forward for an extended period of time. Your eyes should maintain a 90 degree angle with the computer screen and your feet should be planted flat on the floor. While stretching your legs out or resting your feet on a surrounding surface might feel good, it’s a bad habit. If you are unable to rest your feet flat on the floor,invest in a small footstool for this area.

Finally, ensure you are taking at least a 5 to 10 minute break every hour to walk around and stretch out your hands, wrists, forearms, neck, shoulders, back, sides, and legs. We can schedule an ergonomic assessment at home or virtually, a certified kinesiologist can show you an array of stretches and exercises to do.

Consider Getting an Ergonomic Assessment

If you’re experiencing frequent headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, or pain in your back, neck, or shoulders, then we highly recommend you book an ergonomic assessment with one of our certified kinesiologists. If you are a business owner with employees working from home, you might consider offering to book an ergonomic assessment for them as well.

During your assessment, your kinesiologist will review your concerns, pre-existing injuries, work history and daily tasks. We’ll assess your workspace and help you set up an ergonomically functional one, taking into consideration the ways you like to work. Finally, we’ll recommend ways you can improve your posture and environment and educate you on preventative measures you can take, like exercise breaks and targeted stretches. If you’re already suffering from a repetitive stress injury, we’ll explore ways you can reduce the effects.

Ergonomic assessments are available virtually or in-person! Give us a call at 1-833-U-R-Heard today or book your appointment through our digital platform here. We look forward to working with you!

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