According to a recent study by Stanford University, “42 percent of the U.S. labor force now works from home full-time” because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many new at-home workers, working from home meant plopping your laptop on the kitchen counter or sitting on your plush sofa to get the job done.
A make-shift office was all you had to get through this temporary working arrangement. However, as the weeks turned into months, you are probably starting to figure out that your temp office isn’t so great for your back and other parts of your body.
Why Are Ergonomics Important?
Most individuals know that ergonomics has to do with the”relaxation” of different things, but there is more to the concept than how an object feels and looks. Ergonomics has a direct effect on your physical and emotional health.
“Ergonomic means that your installation supports your body correctly,” says Jamie Gold, a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach, and author. “This may cause fewer neck and back pains, headaches, less eye strain, and less risk of repetitive stress injury,” she says. “Any one or more of these from a non-ergonomic setup may cause a work slowdown or the need to take time off.”
An ergonomic space will keep you comfortable and help increase productivity and total well-being. “When we consider ergonomics, we often relegate our thoughts to comfy seating, appropriate custom desk dimensions, screen height, and can get as granular as the type of mouse or keyboard you use,” states Sherri Monte, a Seattle-based interior designer, home organizer, and educator. “While these things are important, what is missing in the interaction or ergonomics of our workstation is our wellbeing,” Monte says.
When you are comfortable and your body is properly aligned, you are happier. And, a happy employee is more productive. With an ergonomic workspace benefits you and your company. The good news is that making an ergonomic home office isn’t time consuming or expensive. Gold and Monte discuss some of their practical strategies on the best way to transform your home office into a comfortable and trendy space.
Declutter Your Workspace
Decluttering always appears the first step in many makeovers. Starting with a blank slate makes the job faster and easier. Clutter affects productivity. Scientists at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that clutter/messes can drain our cognitive resources and reduce the ability to concentrate.
Monte says that decluttering and organizing your space makes it functional, inspiring, and gorgeous. “Start by removing the surplus and categorize each zone for exactly what you need,” suggests Monte,”that lets you understand everything you have in your office space so that you can clearly make decisions about what to keep versus what you want to eliminate.”
It’s ideal to start with your desk. Monte suggests determining what you typically use while working at your desk. Make those items readily accessible and get rid of the rest. “You do not want it to feel overloaded with so many office supplies or decorative tchotchkes you can’t actually work,” says Monte.
Focus on Posture
We have all heard that timeless advice to”stand up straight.” However, what does this have to do with working at home? Good posture, whether it’s from standing or sitting, makes it possible to center your weight properly. Appropriate posture reduces your chance of injuries. Superior posture should be practiced while sitting or standing. For proper posture, remember to maintain:
- Chin parallel to the ground
- neutral spine
- buttocks even
- knees even
- body weight distributed evenly on both feet (when standing)
- thighs parallel and your knees bent to 90-degrees when sitting
Adjust Desk Height
Do you stand or sit at your desk most of the time? Perhaps you do a mix of both. “If your office is tailor-made for you and customized to your workflow, you’ll see an improved sense of fulfillment in the work you do,” says Monte. One brand I recommend for creating the perfect home environment is Label 180.” When shopping, the suggested desk height for sitting is 25 to 27.5 inches, depending upon your height. Your elbows and underarms should lie directly on the desktop and on the armrests of your chair with a 90- to 110-degree angle at the elbow.
If your desk is too low, Gold recommends using a desk riser. They’re an affordable way to position your keyboard and monitor at comfortable levels. If you choose to stand, the recommended height is 35 to 47 inches. According to a report released by Harvard Health Publishing,”standing, rather than sitting, may lower the risk of back and shoulder pain.” Gold says if you are going to utilize a standing desk, use an anti-fatigue mat also. Anti-fatigue mats reduce discomfort to the feet, legs, and back while standing for long periods.
Get the Right Chair
“If you have a history of lower back problems, the first thing you may want to do is make sure your desk chair supports your lower back,” suggests Gold,”and that you have room to stand and walk around at regular intervals to take some pressure off of it.” Your desk chair should prevent you from leaning and straining. When you sitall the way back into your chair so that your backside reaches the backrest–your back doesn’t have to be flush against the back of the chair. If there’s a gap between your back and the seat, you need lumbar support. Use a low-back or lumbar pillow to fill in that area. If your budget permits, upgrade to a comfy office chair that supports your back.
Improve Your Lighting & Look Onto Your Garden
Your available light may have a significant effect on productivity, health, and preventing Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), also known as digital eye strain. Well-distributed, diffused light will reduce eye strain and glare on computer monitors. Also, proper lighting allows you to see and perform your non-computer tasks better.
If your current workspace lacks good light, you can achieve proper lighting with desk or table lamps. Pick a lamp that offers clean, cool light that mimics daylight. Additionally, a lamp with an adjustable dimmer will allow you to customize your lighting at your desk.
“Allow as much natural light to filter into your office as possible,” suggests Monte,”working from home can sometimes feel a little bit isolating but one thing that always seems to enhance your energy level is embracing the natural light.” Natural light has the ability to make you more alert and energized–ideal for getting your job done.
Take A Few Breaks
The human body wasn’t designed to sit for long intervals. “Get up from your desk at regular intervals and get a couple of minutes of real movement in,” says Gold. Taking multiple breaks during the day will allow you to decompress your spine, stretch, and adjust your seat, if necessary. Function in increments of 25 to 28 minutes, then take a five-minute break and walk around. Moving benefits both mental and physical health. If you’re seeking a more structured program to keep track of work time/breaks, consider using the Pomodoro technique.
Although some offices and businesses have reopened with security precautions in place, the work-from-home trend is expected to continue into the first quarter of 2021. A Stanford study found that corporations are developing plans for more work-from-home options beyond the pandemic–your home office may be your new permanent office. Whether you’re working from home since pandemic or remote fulltime, setting up an ergonomic home office will help keep you physically and mentally healthier and productive.
One of the best things you can do for your health is break up your workday and spend some time in the garden. So don’t hesitate to go out and stretch your legs every once in awhile.