When the pandemic hit, and many of us were asked to work remotely, you may have thrown together your work-from-home “office” on the fly. We thought teleworking was a temporary solution.
Fast-forward seven months, and remote work appears to be here to stay. But most of us are still working from the cobbled-together setups we started with. And many of us are suffering from neck pain, back pain or headaches because we didn’t consider how an improper setup can negatively impact posture and musculoskeletal health.
It’s time to make remote work posture-friendly and more productive. That starts with ensuring your work-from-home arrangement is streamlined and functional. To give you the power to last through all those hours of Zoom calls, your workspace needs to be ergonomic, too.
Let’s Get Ergonomic
You’ve likely heard the word “ergonomics” before. You may even know it has something to do with posture and the chair you use. But what does “ergonomics” really mean?
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a definition of ergonomics: “The science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population.”
In short, ergonomics means fitting the task to the worker, rather than moving, bending or stretching the worker to fit the task. Removing incompatibilities between a worker and their work allows people to complete their jobs safely and productively. Ergonomics is the science of designing an individual’s workspace and setup to match their unique needs and physical capabilities. Working in an environment that’s comfortable helps prevent fatigue, discomfort, and injury. It also allows for maximum productivity and efficiency.
Unfortunately, even before the pandemic, research showed an estimated 50% of people in the working world suffer from some form of back pain, often due to poor posture and incorrect support while working at a desk or computer. Spending eight hours a day in any chair is a long time, especially if that chair is less than ideal.
If you want to protect yourself from back pain, neck pain, and other health issues including carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injuries, ergonomics is your answer.
6 Tips to Create Your Ergonomic Workspace
The best way to set up a computer workstation is by following the concept of neutral body positioning. A neutral position is a comfortable working posture that allows your joints to be naturally aligned, reducing strain and stress on your muscles, tendons, and bones.
If you’re not sure exactly what that means in terms of your actual desk setup, don’t worry. Here are six tips to ensure your workspace is ergonomically correct.
- Ground your feet. A neutral body position starts with a solid foundation. Ensure your chair height allows you to sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor. Your knees should be facing forward and aligned over your ankles, not tipping inward or out to the sides or coming over your toes.
- Sit up tall. Slouching compresses the spine, putting extra pressure on the discs and vertebrae. Over time, this posture contributes to back pain. Keep your spine long and tall, and be sure to sit in a way that doesn’t involve putting weight on one side more than the other. Scoot your chair close enough to your work to prevent repeated leaning or reaching, and incorporate additional lumbar support as needed.
- Align forearms, wrists, and hands. While you’re working at your desk, especially if you’re typing on a keyboard, keep a long, straight line from forearms to wrists to hands. Improper posture while typing can lead to repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome; repeated hand and wrist movements can irritate the wrist tendons, especially when alignment is poor.
- Relax your shoulders. Whether you prefer a chair with armrests or not, ensure your position allows your shoulders to be relaxed while your elbows rest close to your body. If your shoulders and neck tend to ache after working at the computer, try adding a little support, and see if it helps.
- Float your head. It may sound silly, but envisioning your head as a ball or balloon perfectly balanced atop your torso and neck can help lighten the load and encourage appropriate alignment.
- Position your monitor. If your monitor is too high, you’re looking up all day. Too low, and your neck aches after just a few hours. To keep your head and neck aligned and your work position comfortable, position your monitor so its top sits at, or just below, eye level. This arrangement puts the screen directly in your natural line of sight so that your head and neck aren’t being strained.
With a few ergonomic edits to your workspace, you’ll soon find your pain reduced and your productivity skyrocketing!