Working full-time from home is a new reality for many workers due to the response to Covid-19. While it may be tempting to stretch out on the couch or bed with a laptop, this can lead to discomfort, pain or injury (DPI) from all sorts of awkward postures. It’s helpful to understand the risks of DPI when working from home and how to set yourself up for support in the comforts of your home environment. Here are some tips to set you straight.
Start with the space
- Working full-time from home is very different from logging a few extra hours from home during the week.
- It’s important to set-up a space in your home that limits distraction, has adequate lighting and has a work surface and chair that provide support.
- If there are other people in the house with you, try to find a space with a door that can be closed.
- Don’t forget to give yourself plenty of light and set-up your screen at a 90-degree angle from the source of light to decrease glare.
Get some support
Your body needs to be well supported while you work to decrease the chance of developing aches and pains. Your low back needs support to help you sit upright, your work surface should be just below elbow height to allow your arms to relax by your side when typing and your monitor should be just at or below eye-height to avoid bending down at the neck. Let’s look at options for your home workstation set up:
- Work Surface- Try to find a surface that will allow you space for your equipment and room for your legs underneath. If you can’t pull up to your work surface then you will be bending forward or reaching for your keyboard. The NZ company Refold has some creative options for work surfaces that can be set up and then packed away at the end of the day so you can get some living space back.
- Chair- This may be one of the comforts of your office that you miss the most. If you don’t have an adjustable office chair at home, you can increase the comfort of your kitchen chair by adding some low back support with a couch cushion, rolled-up hand towel placed just above the hips or with a back support such as the Fellowes Mesh Back Support or Fellowes iSpire adjustable back support. If your seat is hard or your desk is too high you may want to consider sitting on a couch cushion or pillow. There are also wedge cushions you can buy to soften the seat and improve the position of your hips and low back. Remember, your shoulders will be most relaxed when your elbow is just above your work surface, so you may need those cushions to bring up your elbow height. If your feet are left unsupported, you can use a box, some books or a ream of copy paper to support your feet.
- Screen- A laptop is great for convenience, but with the screen and keyboard connected, your neck and arms can’t be comfortable at the same time. It is best to raise your laptop screen to just below eye-height, either with books, boxes or a lap-top stand and use an external keyboard and mouse. There are laptop stands available such as the Kensington Smartfit Easy Riser or Ergonomic Laptop Riser. For those who are into DIY, here is a template for making your own riser from cardboard or buying a pre-made cardboard riser from Refold is also an option. Some risers don’t bring the screen high enough so you may still need an extra box underneath.
- Keyboard- As space may be an issue, compact keyboards are available to decrease the reach for the mouse and give you a bit more room for writing space or documents. Genius LuxeMate 100 mini keyboard is very cost effective, while the Logitech K380 multi-device bluetooth keyboard allows you to link to up to 3 devices for typing convenience.
While your space and workstation set-up are important to keep you focused and your body supported, you still need to be mindful of your work habits.
- Set a timer or use a Smart Watch to help remind you to take a postural break by standing or walking at least once an hour for at least one minute.
- Keep hydrated and avoid the temptations of a full-kitchen pantry by staying to sensible snacking.
- Establish and stick with a routine to help structure your day and finish your work tasks. Finally, give yourself your normal work breaks and get outside for a walk or check off a few chores to keep your body moving.
If you need any further advice, remote workstation assessments, working from home risk assessment, or company specific material, please get in touch with us.
Written by Dr Cathy Bloome, Clinical Doctorate – Occupational Therapy