Whether you work from the home office full time or only when the bills are due, you probably spend a majority of your day in front of a screen. As a result, ergonomics — or the efficiency and safety of your working environment — has become increasingly important, especially as many suffer from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and lower back injuries. While we can’t always change the amount of time we spend in front of the monitor, we can make small changes to our habits and workspace that’ll boost productivity and reduce stress on the body. Here’s how you can improve the ergonomics of your home office.
1. Work on your posture
Maintaining good posture is perhaps one of the most crucial elements in a healthy workstation setup. When you’re working at a seated computer station, your aim should be to achieve what experts call a neutral body position in order to reduce unnecessary strain. To do it correctly:
- Keep your hands, wrists, and forearms straight and parallel to the floor
- Make sure your head is facing forward and aligned with your torso
- Keep your elbows bent close to the body between 90 and 120 degrees
- Place your feet fully on the floor (or on a footrest)
- Use an adjustable-height chair with lumbar support when sitting and make sure your thighs and hips are also supported
- Keep your knees at the same height as your hips with your feet slightly forward
2. Invest in a good desk and chair
Take the time to invest in a well-designed desk and a comfortable, height-adjustable work chair. Desks don’t need to be fancy, but at a minimum, they should allow clearance for your legs. And aim for your monitor to be placed a minimum of 20 inches away from your face. Online chair shopping may be tempting, but try to take the time to test different chairs in person before purchasing — you’ll want something with a backrest that adapts to your body, whether it’s the curve of your spine, cushioned support for your arms, or the right amount of lumbar support.
3. Check your accessories
If you already suffer from a repetitive stress injury or other MSD, make sure your desk accessories (that means everything from your computer monitor to your mouse) are a good fit for your body and your space. In particular, be sure to:
- Keep keyboards directly in front of you
- Make sure the top of your monitor is at or below eye level
- Blink and rest your eyes periodically when working for long periods in front of a monitor
- Keep your mouse close to your keyboard and use keyboard shortcuts to avoid overuse
- Use wrist supports to help minimize stress and maintain straight wrist posture during typing and mousing
4. Explore innovative alternatives
There are an increasing number of ergonomically-minded office accessories on the market these days, from standing desks to laptop stands to balance ball chairs. A few things to keep in mind when considering these products:
- Look for height-adjustable desks that can accommodate different body types and postures
- Make sure to maintain proper posture by sitting in an upright position on balance ball chairs
- When using standing desks or adjustable-height computer stands, slowly increase the amount of time you stand during the course of a few weeks so your body can adjust to the new positioning
5. Move around more
No matter how ideal your set up is, it’s never a good idea to sit in the same position for hours on end. Change your position throughout the day and take care to stretch, move around, adjust your chair and its position, and perform some of your work tasks while in a non-seated position whenever possible.
Now that you’ve got home office ergonomics squared away, check out these 5 tips for working from home.