When office professionals across the United States and the world were asked to work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no certainty as to how long the situation would last. While some remote employees had preexisting home offices to retreat to, others were left to create a new space within their apartments or homes.
Whether your work from home situation is temporary or long term, part time or fully remote, it is important to fashion an office-like environment that is beneficial to your physical health.
Why Is It Important to Have an Ergonomic Workspace at Home?
While companies may provide ergonomic workspaces in their offices based on the advice of an occupational health specialist, working from home leaves the employee to make choices about their setup. Budget and space constraints may lead to a less-than-ideal situation.
The top complaints professionals have about their work setup include:
How to Optimize Your Work From Home Setup
According to Deborah Read, MOTR/L, president of ErgoFit Consulting, a non-ergonomic setup can cause additional health problems. For example, hanging part of your forearms off the edge of a desk due to lack of space can have a long-term effect on your nerves and muscle tissue.
Read explained that these problems can stem from ill-fitting furniture and can affect three key areas:
The size of a work surface and height of a computer monitor may affect your shoulder and neck positions, causing strain.
Inadequate space for a keyboard may cause arms to hang off the edge of a surface, damaging soft tissue. “Over time, that can lead to nerve injuries and sometimes vascular [issues],” Read said.
If a chair is too high, feet cannot be firmly on the ground, which can affect back support and posture.
There are many things to consider when creating an ergonomic workspace, including monitor placement, the height of the work surface and chair, and foot support.
Creating the best possible work from home setup will depend on your individual preferences, amount of space and budget. Some may not have a designated office space and need adaptive accessories that can be set up and put away. Others may rely on items they can find at home to save money. Luckily, there are a variety of options to upgrade a workspace.
Things You Can Buy
Laptop risers help raise a screen to eye level. The accessory is best paired with an external keyboard and mouse.
Seat and lower back cushions can adjust the height and support of a regular dining chair for better posture.
Table/bed risers can be used to securely raise the work surface to a more comfortable height if it is too low.
Things You Can Find at Home
The kitchen table is often a good work surface, according to Read, as it provides space to set up a monitor or raised laptop, keyboard and mouse.
Stacked books are an easy way to DIY a laptop stand to bring the screen to eye level.
Boxes that are flat and firm can be used as a footrest to allow for firmly planted feet if the chair is too high.
In addition to creating a workspace that is ergonomic, it is also important to stay active when working at home and limit sedentary hours to a minimum. Read emphasized the need for periodic movement, noting that those working from home should “stand and move at least two minutes every hour.”
There are also a variety of stretches and exercises that you can do to address health issues such as neck and back pain.