In response to the pandemic that overpowered the world, employees have adapted to a new way of doing business: from home. And while at first glance, we were all ecstatic to be working remotely, all these months of hunching over laptops and using unsupportive chairs may now be taking their tolls on our bodies. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders are the single largest category of workplace injuries. And while COVID-19 won’t last forever, many believe that the WFH economy may be here to stay. So what do these two pieces of information mean for employees who work from home? They suggest that there is one crucial factor that we just cannot afford to overlook: Ergonomics.
This article outlines the most common ergonomics mistakes and gives you some tips on how to correct them.
❌ Using a chair that isn’t ergonomic
Your chair is the foundation of your entire workstation. If you purchase a chair only based on its price or looks, you aren’t doing much for your health, posture and productivity in the long run. Think of buying a chair as an investment in your health. To invest, you will need to learn about the various options in the market, their functions, and choose one that you can spend every day working in. Here are five key characteristics to look for while buying a chair:
- A seat height of 17 to 22 inches off the floor is ideal for most people. To know what works best for you, set your chair to a height just below your knee when you are standing.
- Opt for a chair with lumbar support. It should fit right at the natural curve of your back, directly above your belt line.
- Armrests take bodyweight off our shoulders, so choose an office chair that has adjustable armrests.
- Keep in mind to opt for a chair that has a breathable seat and the right padding.
- A chair with added wheels or casters is always a bonus as it gives you effortless mobility.
It can be hard to determine which chair is best suited for you. Therefore, we have compiled a list of Office Chair FAQs to help answer all of your Ergonomics queries.
❌ Using your laptop for too long
Laptops are incredible devices! They let us take our work anywhere. They are compact, convenient and easy to use. But if you’ve been working from home this past year with a laptop as your primary machine, you know that they’re not an ideal ergonomic solution for all-day use.
The solution is to get yourself an external monitor and a keyboard-mouse set. The monitor will allow your screen to be at eye level, while the keyboard and mouse set will keep your shoulders and elbows in a more neutral position.
Prolonged screen time can also cause several eye-related problems, so ensure that your screen is at least an arm’s length away from your eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology also recommends following the 20-20-20 rule. This means, for every 20 minutes, you look at the screen, take a break of 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away. This also alleviates eye strain and allows your eyes to rest.
❌ Working from your bed or the couch
Your couch or your bed are great places to put your feet up and unwind after a long day. But is it an excellent option to work from there for eight long hours? Absolutely not! Although it might be tempting to get cosy and work from the comfort of your bed, avoid doing so at all costs. Working from the couch or your bed puts your body in awkward positions and causes a lot of strain and numbness over time.
No matter where you work from, ergonomics is not something you should be compromising on. Contrary to popular opinion, you do not need a lot of space to make a home office work for you. A foldable desk can be set up at the start of your workday and can be folded down when your workday is over. You can also use a laptop riser if you work off a laptop, monitor arms if you have two screens, and an extended keyboard set to make sure you aren’t slouching. If your feet do not touch the floor while sitting, you should also be investing in a footrest.
With remote work seeming more permanent by the day, if there is a good time to invest in your go-to pieces of home office essentials, it is now.
❌ Not fixing your poor posture
Stemming from the last three ergonomics mistakes, here is one that cannot be emphasised enough. Poor posture has been linked to many ailments such as constipation, heartburn and slow digestion, not to forget the aches and pains that accompany this wrong way of sitting. Therefore, maintaining the right posture is extremely important, especially if you’re working from home. To make things simpler, follow these five steps, and you’re already on your way to sitting straighter –
Step 1: Position your elbows at a 90° angle to your desk
Step 2. Sit in as close to the desk as possible
Step 3. Bring your keyboard and mouse in close, so your elbows are in line with your ribcage
Step 4. Place your feet flat on the floor or footrest
Step 5. Sit right back into the chair, with your hips and back in full contact with the backrest
Getting an ergonomic workstation assessment done even before you have any problem can prevent musculoskeletal disorders in the future.
❌ Working in bad lighting
Lighting Ergonomics is a huge part of remote working and productivity. While office buildings are purpose-built for working and have appropriate lighting systems in place, the lighting in our spare bedrooms, or home offices might be a little too less or a little too much. This can cause headaches, fatigue, blurred vision or eye irritation.
As a rule, lighting should be enough to illuminate your workspace, but not so much that it causes computer screen glare. Remember to not put your work desk right in front of a window as this can cause a distracting glare on your screen. If you already have this glare on your screen and it is causing your eyes to grow fatigued, a free and straightforward solution is to simply rearrange your work from home setup.
❌ Using your entire home as your office
Let’s be honest. When you work from home, you start associating your home with work. You take calls in the kitchen, attend meetings on the balcony and do some research on your bed. This may seem normal to most of us, but when it comes to switching off from work, it can be pretty hard. You cannot relax in the same space you spent all afternoon writing reports in. You need a space to rest, and you need a space to work. And they can’t be the same!
If you live in a small apartment and are unable to set up a separate home office, it is a great idea to shut your laptop, put away the paperwork and just sign off for the evening. This allows your mind to switch off from work completely.
ARE YOUR EMPLOYEES PROTECTED?
The HSE states that “The responsibility for health and safety at work rests with the employer whether or not that work is being done at the worker’s home”. We have partnered with Expert Physiotherapists at Spectrum Optimise to conduct home office assessments for your whole organisation. The consultation will address common issues to look out for and recurring trends that need to be addressed. Book a consultation with our ergonomics experts here!