I spent years daydreaming of the moment I would leave my cubicle and its corporate office behind. That moment unexpectedly came in March 2020, as it did for many of us. I discovered, before too long, that I was ill-prepared for this transition from an ergonomic standpoint.
I spent the first four months of full-time work at my kitchen bar, working from a raised bar chair with my monitor, keyboard, and hard drive precariously balanced on the narrow countertop. As my back and neck started to experience regular aches and pains, I realized I needed a better setup. After all, after my paid work shift ends it is time for my second shift: playing with my daughter. Work-from-home ergonomics is just as important as, if not more important than, having a good desk set up at work. Here are some work-from-home office setup tips to consider:
Work at an appropriate desk height:
I learned from firsthand experience the importance of having the desktop at the right height. A keyboard resting on a desktop that is too high will result in the wrists angling upward during typing, which can lead to cumulative trauma. Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), anyone?
Likewise, a high desktop may lead to a computer monitor at a height that leads to neck strain by consistently extending the neck upward to view it. A low desk can result in slumping and weakness of the shoulders, upper neck, and back. Fortunately, resources are readily available to help guide us with a proper home office set up. Check out how to easily calculate proper desk, and even chair, height based on how tall you are here.
Work at an appropriate distance:
Work-from-home wellness doesn’t stop at the height of the desk or monitor. The distance between you and the computer monitor also matters. A monitor should be at least 20 inches distance from the eye, and not more than 40 inches. Set back too far, viewing a monitor could cause eye strain by trying to read smaller fonts. Too close can lead to an urge to push away from the monitor and tilt the head back to view the screen from a greater distance. Ideally, the top of the computer screen should be at or just below eye level. Further guidance on proper adjustment can be found here.
Incorporate time to stretch and look away:
Our bodies are not meant to spend hours in a seated position typing away on a keyboard. Taking the time to stretch, even if just at the desk, can help loosen tight muscles and refresh the body. For me, I get very sore in the neck, shoulders, and upper back region. These exercises help with the upper torso and also provide guidance for stretching the lower body.
Eyes are also prone to strain with prolonged staring at the screen. To give your eyes a break, try incorporating the 20-20-20 Rule: For every 20 minutes spent looking at the monitor, look away for 20 seconds at an object/another focal point 20 feet away. Get super caught up in your work as I do? Try the 20 20 20 app for Apple and Android to get regular reminders to give your eyes a break!
Tips for laptop use:
Laptops are convenient, portable, and lightweight. As I type this post, I am on my Macbook attempting to balance the tips outlined above while taking into consideration the limitations of a smaller screen attached to a compact keyboard. If the laptop is your primary computer and hours are spent plugging away on it each day, consider the following tips incorporating work-from-home ergonomics: use a chair that supports an upright seated position, aim for a neutral wrist alignment when typing, and angle the laptop screen back to help minimize neck strain. Using a wireless keyboard can also help create some space from the screen and allow for raising the screen as well.
Work-from-home wellness begins with conscious effort and simple steps that can help prevent longterm strain. The effort is worth it.
Looking for more intel on working from home? See this post for 5 must-have tips!