For a lot of people reading this, the reality of working from home for the long haul may be something we’ve either struggled to accept, or are just now beginning to realize. Regardless of where you stand, chances are you’ve been on the fence about making ergonomic investments in your home office.
Many of us may have set up a temporary home office, without paying much attention to ergonomic details, with the assumption that this would only be a temporary arrangement. This may have resulted in long work days of hunching over your laptop and gradually feeling more back pain.
Does this sound like your daily life? Trust us when we say, you’re not alone. The number of employees working from home this year has shot up 100% year over year, with the trend expected to continue. Companies like Google and Facebook have informed their employees that they may continue working remotely into 2021.
In light of this, we’ve rounded up some tips to help you avoid some ergonomic pitfalls in your home office that should help you stave off those gradual painful experiences that result from extended periods of non-ergonomic working conditions.
1. Motionless, sedentary working
Chances are you’ve got a lot more remote work meetings than you used to. That means you may find yourself glued to your seat most of the time.
Over an extended period of time, this can have disastrous health consequences. Health experts agree that sedentary working can have carcinogenic effects over time. Experts agree that the best work practices mean you don’t spend much more than 30-90 minutes in one position. The best way to combat these adverse health effects is to change things up.
That’s why height-adjustable standing desks have skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade. Employers recognize these desks as productivity tools that can help employees change between sitting and standing in intervals throughout the day.
If you can, stand up every half hour or so and do something around the house briefly, or take your laptop and place it on a heightened elevation so you can stand and work for a few minutes. Ideally, you’ll want to invest in an electric sit-stand desk for your home office, which will make alternating work positions a breeze, without having to leave your desk or rearrange your surroundings.
2. Settling for an uncomfortable chair
You might not have thought that you’d ever need an ergonomic office chair in your home. But if your home is your new office (at least for the foreseeable future), doesn’t it make sense to have an ergonomic chair to keep you working at your best throughout the day?
Settling for an uncomfortable chair to work from for days on end will eventually take its toll on your back, which needs adequate lumbar support and curvature to ensure your spine stays healthy and pain-free.
Though ergonomic office chairs aren’t cheap, there are certainly affordable options for those who are looking for something high quality without breaking the bank. The ErgoChair 2 from Autonomous is a really popular option that can be customized to fit into just about any space, and is highly adjustable too.
3. Relying on your laptop...and nothing else
Most working professionals work from a laptop. They’re portable, adaptable, and mostly just as powerful as mid-range desktop computers. Plus, they’re great companions for those of us who like working in cafes.
However, only using your laptop can have negative impacts on your health. With your laptop on a table, you’ll be forced to hunch over and look down at your screen, instead of having an external display that meets you at eye level.
If you can, investing in external peripherals like a keyboard and mouse, as well as an external monitor, can make a huge difference in your home office ergonomics. In fact, if you can’t afford a new monitor, you can always get an inexpensive laptop stand to elevate your laptop, so your screen is positioned at an ergonomic height while you use an external keyboard and mouse.
Depending on your budget, you’ll want to choose the best option for you. An ergonomic external keyboard can be had for inexpensive prices and could help you maintain good typing posture and prevent side effects like carpal tunnel.
As long as your back and neck are supported and in a neutral position, you’ll be far less at risk of long-term negative health impacts from non-ergonomic working. Having an elevated laptop or external monitor, as well as an external keyboard and mouse, are crucial to ergonomic optimization.
4. Sitting in front of a bright window
Lighting is an often-underestimated factor when it comes to creating an ergonomic home office. And while natural light is a great thing to have and important to liven up the room, if you arrange your desk so that it’s in front of a window, your monitor becomes more difficult to see and the contrast will be reduced.
This can cause eye fatigue which can lead to headaches, and further promotes bad posture by subconsciously encouraging you to lean forward so you can see what’s on the screen more clearly.
The best way to resolve this problem is to use translucent curtains that mute the intensity of the light but still allow your room to be illuminated. Of course, the best solution (if possible) is to rearrange your space so your desk isn’t positioned in front of a window.
5. Misguided attempts at a DIY home office
While DIY projects can be fun, it’s a tricky subject when it comes to making an ergonomic home office. That’s because ergonomics is a science, and ergonomic products are the result of copious amounts of testing and research. Applying that same methodology to a DIY project is very difficult, if not impossible.
For instance, trying to make a DIY treadmill desk can present all kinds of ergonomic issues, as they are not necessarily good solutions for people who use a computer all day, and may present more issues with fatigue. There are standing and walking ergonomics, just as there are sitting ergonomics, so a lot of factors need to be taken into consideration.
Your best bet is to invest in a comfortable chair, a standing desk, and perhaps a Anti Fatigue Mat for standing desk to reduce pressure on your joints while you stand. Other ergonomic tools are worth trying too, depending on your budget.
When it comes to ergonomics, you don’t need to be an expert to know what basic things to avoid. There’s a lot of resources out there, and a lot of great smart tools for you to consider when investing in your home office. Remember, investing in ergonomic office tools is an investment in YOU! As you are the one who stands to benefit long-term from working comfortably and ergonomically.
What are some of your favorite ergonomic office tools that you can work without? Have you implemented ergonomics in your home office? Let us know in the comments below.
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