In my last post, I wrote about how to set up a more comfortable working environment at home by suggesting equipment and what heights and distances the equipment should be at. In this post, I would like to speak about the second part of working at home ergonomics: posture and work organization. Here is a list of tips aimed at you and your body that will help you in the home office:
- Avoid “chicken neck” – Many people sit in front of the computer, leaning forward with their head and chin pulled into the monitor as though they can’t see it. As you can imagine, this posture is very tough on the neck and shoulders. First off, make sure your monitor is at the right distance – if it’s too far away, you can’t help but lean in to see it. Then make sure the font is not too small, and increase it if it is. And if those aren’t the problems, monitor your posture. Set a timer and check for chicken neck every 15 minutes.
- Perfect posture – All you have to do to have impeccable posture is to imagine you are a puppet. Pretend there is a string attached to the very top of your head and imagine that that string is pulling you up. When this happens, you will automatically stop slouching, stop rounding your shoulders, and your chin and head will come into perfect alignment with your spine. As with chicken neck, set a timer to be a puppet.
- Sit properly – Many people who work at home sit down in front of the computer periodically throughout the day “just to take care of a few things”. This is all fine and good, but the problem is with how they sit which is usually perched on the front edge of their chair without resting their back against the backrest. Try to resist this posture because before you know it, you’ll be 15 minutes in and your back/neck will start protesting. If you plan to be any longer than one minute at the computer, make the effort to sit down properly with your back against your back rest and your chair pulled in.
- Relax – Most people when they are rushed or are on a deadline will hunch up their shoulders and lean into the computer. I think it makes us feel like we will work harder! Try to relax instead and save the energy you put into that hunched up posture for work itself.
- Move around a lot – One of the luxuries of working at home is that you can take as many breaks as you want (as long as the work gets done of course!). Take advantage of this by getting up from your chair frequently. Go and fold that laundry for a standing and moving break, then come back to your desk. Do a few yoga poses or just move: circle your arms and roll your shoulders. Don’t forget to take a short walk at lunch – this has physical, mental, emotional and social benefits all rolled into one.
- Avoid “hovering” – When you’re at the computer, there is a surprising amount of pause time when you are not keyboarding or mousing, but rather reading the screen or thinking. During these pauses, many people hover their hands over the keyboard or mouse in anticipation of their next move. Unfortunately this requires muscular effort when you could be resting your hands, wrists, and forearms and giving them a much needed break. During these times, put your hands in your lap, down by your sides, or drape them over the keyboard and/or mouse so that they are completely relaxed.
As you can see, working from home does not have to be an ergonomic nightmare and can actually be beneficial. Take advantage of the benefits that working from home offers to be happy, healthy, and injury free.