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How to improve the ergonomics of your home office setup

How to improve the ergonomics of your home office setup

Here are some cheap and easy fixes to make your space ergonomically safe while working from home.

How to improve the ergonomics of your home office setup

If you are one of the millions of people around the globe now working from home, it may pay to consider the ergonomics of your home-office setup, particularly if you are struggling with back, neck or shoulder discomfort. Kermit Davis, an expert in office ergonomics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, conducted an ergonomic assessment of employees at the university, sending out an email survey to 4,500 faculty and staff after the coronavirus pandemic forced workers home to continue operations. Davis found that many people converted their dining room tables or bedrooms into makeshift offices but few had much guidance when it came to making these new spaces ergonomically safe.

The survey found that the position of a computer monitor was often too low or off to the side. Three-quarters of monitors were laptops, which were too low relative to eye height, the study found. “You can use your laptop from home, but it is designed to be a short-term option. It is not meant to be used for eight or nine hours each day,” says Davis. The screen and keyboard on laptops are smaller than a standard desktop computer and as a result, the user often ends up looking downward. Many chairs were the wrong height, with about 41 per cent too low and 2 per cent too high. Fifty-three per cent of workers had armrests on their chairs, but 32 per cent did not use them and for 18 per cent of workers, the armrests were improperly adjusted, the study found. Davis says not using the armrests causes contact stress on forearms when rested on the hard front edge of work surfaces and strain across the upper back as the arms need support. Also, support at the back of the chair was not used by 69 per cent and often without any lumbar support for 73 per cent of survey participants. That meant many individuals did not have proper support of their lower back, maintaining the lumbar curvature.

Davis says there are some cheap and easy fixes for your home office set-up, such as placing a pillow or rolled up towel behind your back to provide lumbar and back support and using an external keyboard and mouse, along with raising the laptop monitor by placing a stack of books or a box under the laptop when using a laptop on a desk. Davis also says when working at home, it’s good to have a break, possibly every 30 minutes, to stay healthy and minimise injury. “The body doesn’t like static postures continually,” says Davis, “You don’t want to do all sitting or all standing all the time.”

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