Ergonomics: Your Home Office

Ergonomics: Your Home Office

The idea of an ergonomic home office is to prevent musculoskeletal discomfort and fatigue, as well as possible injury. If you have ergonomic office furniture and equipment, there are correct and incorrect ways to use it. If you don’t, you can still set up your home workspace ergonomically.

At-Home Work Chair

If you have an ergonomic office chair, use it. If you don’t, you should still maintain a healthy body position. That means a straight spine, low back support, feet flat on the floor (or supported), and thighs resting evenly on the chair surface.

There are some ways you can use a regular chair in a more ergonomic way.

  • Use a chair with a straight back and a firm seat, like a kitchen. dining, or desk chair.

  • A seat cushion or folded towel can help raise the height of your seat.

  • Add a small pillow or rolled towel to support your lower back.

  • Use a footrest, box, etc. if your feet aren’t flat on the floor.

*Avoid working from the sofa/couch or a soft chair

At Home Work Surface

You may work on an office desk or a kitchen or dining room table and use a desktop computer or laptop.

Desktop Computer

If you use a desktop computer or personal computer (PC), the monitor should be placed so that the top one-third of the screen is at eye level and directly in front of you. You may need a riser, box, books, or reams of paper. 

That position helps to keep your neck in a neutral position - not bending up, down, left, or right. The monitor should also be at a distance so that you can see the screen without straining your eyes.

*You can increase the size of the font/text if it helps.

Laptop

If you use a laptop you should use an external monitor OR an external keyboard and mouse (pointing device).

External Monitor

As with a PC, the monitor should be positioned so that your neck stays neutral and your eyes aren’t strained. Place your laptop so that you use it with your wrists in a neutral position and your shoulders relaxed.

External Keyboard And Mouse

You can use your laptop’s monitor/screen with an external keyboard and mouse (pointing device). Raise your laptop so that the monitor is placed with the top one-third of the screen at eye level and directly in front of you. You can also use a riser, box, stack of books, or a few reams of paper here.

Use the flat area at the front of your laptop to rest your wrists. You can also use a small, folded towel or wrist rest/pad to keep your wrists straight. Make sure your elbows aren’t raised and your shoulders relaxed. 

*Your wrist rest should support your wrists, not cause them to bend up or down.

At-Home Stand-Sit Desks

You may prefer to stand while working. Although, as with sitting, it does have disadvantages. You should use both sitting and standing positions, alternating throughout the day.

You can use a standing/stand-up desk or create a standing work position using the kitchen counter or a tall open shelf.

The setup for your desktop computer or laptop follows the same guidelines for sitting desks. For example, you can elevate your laptop so the top one-third of the monitor is, again, at eye level and use an external keyboard and mouse. Be sure you’re not reaching for the keyboard - your shoulders and arms should stay relaxed.

Also, wear comfortable, supportive shoes and consider standing on an anti-fatigue (cushioned) mat.

*Try a footstool under one of your feet for part of the time. It can help to lessen muscle fatigue in your back.

Changing Positions 

It is most important to change work positions throughout the day. From the Ergonomics Center At North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina:

“Alternating postures throughout the day can be instrumental in preventing musculoskeletal disorders by giving the body postural breaks and improving blood circulation. Industry research suggests that sitting should be combined with standing and/or moving throughout the day.” As an example: 

  1. Sit in an ergonomically correct position for 20 minutes, then;

  2. Stand for 8 minutes, and then;

  3. Move - do some light stretching or walk for 2 minutes. 

Stretching and Breaks

Stretching and taking breaks are critical to proper ergonomics. No matter how well you arrange your workspace, you need to get up and move around.

Stretching

Regular stretching exercises help to increase flexibility and strength and decrease pain and fatigue. You should take stretch breaks throughout the day - before your muscles are tired and you feel discomfort.

Breaks

Break periods are very beneficial to prevent and lessen musculoskeletal pain. They give you a chance to rest tired muscles. They also allow time for you to stretch and change positions. You might use the time to do stretching exercises or go for a short walk, even if it’s inside your office or home.

Summary

  • The idea of an ergonomic home office is to prevent musculoskeletal discomfort and fatigue, as well as possible injury.

  • When sitting in your chair, your spine should be straight, your low back supported, your feet flat on the floor (or supported), and your thighs resting evenly on the chair surface.

  • When using your desk, your neck should be in a neutral position - not bending up, down, left, or right. You should also be at a distance so that you can see the computer screen without straining your eyes.

  • You should use both sitting and standing positions, alternating throughout the day.

  • Stretching and taking breaks are critical to proper ergonomics. No matter how well you arrange your workspace, you need to get up and move around.