As of December 2020, 71% of U.S. employees were working from home. These figures were likely a reflection of the coronavirus’s impact on normal work routines, but as more and more employers realize work can be completed from home, it’s likely a good portion of businesses will continue to be conducted remotely even as vaccines continue to roll out.
Working from home has many benefits from skipping commutes to not having to invest in a business wardrobe. Yet, it also comes with some unique challenges. For one, injuries of the hands, wrists, and back increased through 2020, which suggests that home office arrangements aren’t quite posture-friendly. Whether you’re working from the couch on your laptop or slumped over the kitchen counter, chances are there’s room for improvement.
Fortunately, improving the ergonomics of your home office doesn’t have to be challenging. Here are a few simple changes you can make:
Focus on Your Alignment
First and foremost, if you’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future, you should have a designated workspace. Even if you need to set up a small desk in your bedroom, setting up an actual workstation will prevent you from working on the couch, in the kitchen, or in another common area of your home. In these spaces, it’s difficult to maintain a healthy working posture.
With a desk, however, you can put your body into alignment to support spinal health. Ideally, your elbows should be in line with the keyboard, and your feet should be flat on the floor. Your shoulders should be relaxed and stacked over your hips. Try to situate your monitor so that its midpoint is at eye level.
Keep Your Lower Back Supported
To prevent slumping, keep your lower back well supported and your buttocks firmly pressed into the back of your chair. If that feels uncomfortable, you might consider placing a small cushion or rolled-up towel behind your back. This can support the spine’s natural curve and provide a little extra support.
Get Up & Stretch
At work, you may have taken periodic breaks to talk to coworkers. Some people have fewer distractions at home and find that it’s easier to get stuck in one spot for long periods. Yet, being sedentary for too long can put pressure on your back, wrists, and other areas of the body. Plus, it impedes circulation. Keep the blood flowing by doing heel raises from time to time when you’re seated. Every 20 to 30 minutes, get up and stretch or walk around. With a little creativity, it’s easy to integrate movement into your daily routine. You might try to stand and walk about while you’re on the phone, or do stretches while proofing an email, for example.
Be Mindful of Your Arms
Proper keyboard placement can reduce strain in the upper body. Aim to have your arms bent at a 90-degree angle while working. Only use your armrests during breaks, and remove or adjust them if they don’t support your arms at the proper angle. Try to keep other items you use frequently, such as your phone, within close reach so you’re not stretching awkwardly.
Invest in the Right Equipment
While you can implement the tips above right away, you might also consider purchasing some items to promote ergonomics in your office space if you think you’ll be working from home for a long time. An ergonomic desk chair is a great place to start. Ideally, it should provide back support and be adjustable to align with your specific height and comfort needs. If you’re not ready to invest in new furniture right now, modifications such as placing a yoga block under your feet or even tilting your monitor can help improve ergonomics and reduce the strain on your body.
With these tips, you may find yourself feeling better and perhaps even becoming more productive in your home office. Not only will you help to prevent strain now, but you can also avoid some of the long-term issues that come with poor work posture.
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