5 Ergonomic Must-Haves for Your Home Office to Prevent Neck and Back Pain

When the number of people working from home goes up, so does the number of back and neck complaints. The likely culprit? "Home office" setups.

Not everyone was prepared when offices started shutting down during the pandemic. Kitchen tables became desks, uncomfortable dining room chairs replaced office chairs, and the couch turned into the all-in-one workspace. Many with existing back pain saw their pain get worse, and some people began experiencing new aches for the first time. "Tech neck," neck pain caused by repetitive strain on the cervical spine, has become a relatable discomfort. 

Are you part of the one-third of the workforce still working from home? Be sure your setup is set up for success with these main items:

It's easy to get started, whether you're filling up your online shopping cart or using what you have around the house, and your body will thank you in the long run. 

Healthy Sitting

If you spend 8 hours a day sitting, you'll want to make sure you do it right. Positioning yourself correctly helps prevent aches and pains, and it's simple to do at home.

Office Chair

How does it help?
  • Prevents hunching and straining of your back

  • Keeps your shoulders in a better position

  • Supports your neck (in some models) 

An office chair can be adjusted for optimal comfort and position. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and the back of the chair should support your lower back. The seat should support the back of your thighs without putting pressure on your knees. Position the armrests so your arms are close to the desk.

Home solution

Choose an upright chair (e.g. kitchen or dining table chair) and make adjustments as needed. Use a box or footrest just a few inches high under your feet if they aren’t flat on the floor. Place a rolled up towel behind your lower back for support. Sit on a small cushion or fold a blanket to your preferred firmness.

Keyboard Comfort

Many laptops have flat areas for your wrists to rest as you type and maneuver the touchpad. What about models that don't, or external keyboards? There are plenty of options for you.

Ergonomic Keyboard & Mousepad 

How do they help?
  • Keep your wrists extended

  • Maintain relaxed upper arms

How to use ergonomic keyboards and mousepads

Support pads may be part of the keyboard or added to the setup. Make sure the pad is level with your mouse or keyboard. Your wrists should not bend up or down. Your keyboard or support shouldn’t be too high, causing raised elbows or hunched shoulders.

Home solution

It is usually easier to work at a desktop computer with a separate monitor, although laptop adjustments also work. For a laptop, try an external keyboard and monitor. Monitors should be at eye level to prevent neck strain. Don't keep the tabs under your keyboard too high - this can make your wrists bend at an unnatural angle. Place a folded dish towel just in front of your keyboard and mouse for comfort and support.

Sitting or Standing

In recent years, standing up at work has gained popularity. However, an all-day upright position leads to as many problems as sitting all day. For the best benefit, you'll want to switch between both positions, and an adjustable standing desk is just the solution.

Standing Desk

How does it help?
  • Standing is generally healthy for the body

  • Supports good posture when correctly adjusted

  • Lessens strain on your neck and lower back

How to use a standing desk

Adjust the desk to elbow height, keeping your neck neutral and shoulders relaxed, and ensure your monitor remains at eye-level. Start by standing for 15 minutes a day and gradually increase your time from there.

Home solution

Try to replicate a standing desk by working at a counter or tall or open shelf. Place a tall box under your monitor to lift it to eye-level, and use an external keyboard to keep your arms low and relaxed.

Monitor Height

A bad monitor position isn't just bad for your eyes. It can also cause you to hunch or look up too high, both which are bad for your neck and back.

Adjustable Monitor

How does it help?
  • Helps lessen back strain

  • Prevents twisting of your head and neck

How to use an adjustable monitor

Adjust the height so your neck is in a neutral (not up/down, left/right) position. Make sure it is at a comfortable distance to avoid eye strain.

Home solution

Make sure the monitor is positioned so that it’s at eye-level and your neck is in a neutral position. If you have a laptop, use an external keyboard and place your laptop on a stack of books. For even better ergonomics, use both an external monitor and keyboard.

Related article: Tech Neck Prevention and Treatment

Changing Positions

In addition to the ergonomic benefits of chairs and desks, it is most important to take frequent breaks and, if possible, change work positions throughout the day. 

  • Take a short break from work every hour or so. It helps to lessen neck, back, and eye strain

  • If you use a standing desk, periodically adjust it from standing to sitting

  • Take a walk; whether it's a 5-minute stroll in your home or longer around the block, walking is good for your whole body

An ergonomic home office can help prevent and lessen existing back pain. Goodpath offers a back pain program that looks at the whole person and creates a plan to meet their short- and long-term needs. Take the first step by completing our free back pain assessment.

If you're an employer, helping employees set up for success at home is just one way to keep employee satisfaction up. Another way is offering Goodpath as a company benefit to help employees manage musculoskeletal pain and behavioral health. Implementation takes less than two weeks, from first introductions to open enrollment. Learn more at https://www.goodpath.com/employer.