How to set up your home workstation
A large number of us are now working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have had several patients contact us over the last few weeks with new aches and pains as a result of working at home. It can be challenging setting up an ergonomically friendly workstation but there are several ways to reduce the stress on your body and avoid the onset of postural related pain.
We want to emphasise that it doesn’t matter how ‘ergonomically friendly’ your home workstation is, it is not a good idea to sit for long periods of time. Our bodies are designed to move and it is more likely that a sustained position and inactivity will lead to the development of aches and pains rather than how you are sitting. Therefore, we recommend you have a break from your workstation every half an hour. This will allow the body to use different muscles and you can reset your posture when you sit down again. Why not set a reminder to prevent over-working and then have half a glass of water every time you get up to encourage more toilet breaks?
When setting up your workspace please do not be tempted by ultimate comfort like the sofa. To reduce the risk of postural related pain it is best to set up on a desk or one end of the dining room table. If possible, try to find somewhere that you will have peace and quiet and fresh air by opening windows to improve your concentration.
There can be a lot of distractions when working at home and you may not be as productive as you are in the office. Please don’t be too hard on yourself, these are unprecedented times and you are doing the best you can under these circumstances.
Below are some guidelines for setting up your workstation at home..........
The first thing to do is set yourself up in the chair correctly. Start by sitting with your bottom right in the back of the seat and allow the chair to support the natural curves of the spine. You can increase the support for your lower back by placing a small rolled up hand towel in the lumbar region, which will also prevent you from slouching.
We advise you do not sit on a hard chair as this can be uncomfortable for the sit bones and tail bone (coccyx). You can sit on a cushion or folded towel to avoid this.
Next, come under your desk or table so you are 1 – 2 inches away from the edge. If arm rests are preventing you from doing this then lower them or remove them as they are not needed when using the keyboard. Another common reason why you may not be able to sit further under your desk is because it is a common place for storage! Now is the time to clear that clutter.
Adjust the height of your chair so that your elbows are at a right angle (90 degrees) when your hands are rested on the desk. Your ankles, knees and hips should also be at a 90-degree angle. If your feet do not touch the floor then use a foot stool (you may need to improvise with packets or paper, boxes or books).
KEYBOARD AND MOUSE
The keyboard should be directly in front of you and placed under your hands (when your elbows are at right angles and next to the side of your body). The wrists should be supported on the edge of the desk and the keyboard placed flat so you reduce the pressure on the carpal tunnel.
The mouse is placed directly next to the keyboard.
Avoid placing documents at the edge of the desk, as this means you will need to reach further for the keyboard which encourages a rounded back posture and puts strain through the neck and shoulders from repeatedly looking down. Alternatively, place documents between the keyboard and screen or use a document holder (at home you can improvise, such as propping up a clip board).
If you are a laptop user, it is best to separate the screen and purchase a cheap keyboard and mouse to reduce the strain on your neck. It may be worth contacting your occupational health department who may be able to supply them.
Position the screen directly in front of you so you do not need to twist your neck. The computer or laptop screen should be situated at arms-length and the top of the screen at eye level. You can adjust the screen with stacks of paper, boxes or books.
Check the screen characters can be seen comfortably and if not bring the screen forward a little more towards you. This will prevent slouching forwards over the desk to see the screen more clearly.
If you spend a lot of time on the telephone or on video calls, a headset is a good investment. Then position the telephone as close to you as possible so you avoid the need to over reach or repeatedly bend forward.
If you feel your eyes starting to strain it may be due to poor lighting. Strain on your eyes can lead to tiredness and headaches so ensure they get regular breaks too.
Bright, natural light is best for working at a computer but try to reduce glare and shadows on the screen.
If you would like further advice and support with your home workstation set-up, then please get in touch. Why not have someone take a photo and then feel free to send it to us and we will be happy to identify anything you may be able to improve.
Take care and stay safe.