How To Create An Ergonomically Friendly Home Office
If you’re like many of us, you’ve probably found yourself working from home since the beginning of the pandemic. Here are some steps to create an ergonomically friendly home office.
STEP 1: Define your work area
The most important thing you’ll need is a desk or table. If you’re lucky enough to have a desk or table in a designated room in your home, then excellent! But even if you do, or did, you may sometimes get kicked out of that space or need more privacy. Others may find themselves at the kitchen or dining room table or even coffee table. Whatever or wherever the space may be, claim it!
If you need more privacy, you can create your own cubicle environment by breaking apart a large cardboard box or using poster board to designate your work area.
STEP 2: Find and adjust your chair
In this step, you don’t need to buy a fancy ergonomically-designed chair. Use whatever you have at home and notice how you feel in it. Have a seat in your chair at the desk that you chose and notice where your arms fall when you place your hands on the desk. Ideally, your forearms should be parallel to the ground and your elbows shouldn’t be lower than the desk.
If you find that your chair is too low in relation to the desk, stack some pillows or books on the chair to raise the seat as much as you need. If available to you, you can also place a slate or piece of wood or books under the legs of the chair to raise the entire chair up.
On the other hand, if your chair is too high, then you can stack some books on the desk to elevate your work space.
It’s important to play around here and notice how you feel in your arms and chest in order to find the appropriate height for you.
STEP 3: Adjust your computer monitor
Likely, you’ll be using a computer, in which case you want to be sure it’s at the appropriate height and distance. The top of the screen should be at or just below eye and the screen itself should be at least an arm’s length away. Of course, the bigger the screen, the further away you’ll probably want it. You want to avoid having to turn your neck much to scan the entirety of the screen. It’s much more efficient to move your eyes instead.
If your keyboard is separate from your monitor (whether it be a desktop or laptop monitor), then you can adjust your monitor freely.
If you’re using a laptop where the monitor is connected to the keyboard, then the situation is less than ideal because you’ll inevitably be looking down. You’ll have to find a compromise between not reaching too far out with your arms and not having to bend your neck too far down to see the screen. Experiment with how you feel to find the distance that works best for you, knowing that it will require some intermittent adjustment throughout the day.
STEP 4: Choose your accessories
The most common accessory you’ll be using is your mouse so you want to make sure it fits comfortably in your hand, no matter the shape.
Another common accessory may be a headset or earbuds for audio. This, of course, will depend on user preference but you do want to be sure that the volume isn’t too loud because sound is going directly into your ear and vibrating your eardrum. I suggest using an external microphone and speakers instead, if possible.
The other thing to consider is a keyboard pad to rest your wrists. This will take the pressure off your wrists and keep them in a neutral position when you find yourself typing away throughout the day. You can easily buy one of these or make one by folding up a medium size towel. While you’re at it, you can roll up a small face towel to use as a wrist pad for your mouse, too.
In this step, you’ll also want to gather everything you’ll need that’s specific to your work (ie, papers, pens, stapler, etc) and keep them within an arm’s length away.
STEP 5: Be body mindful
This is the most important step and I could probably write an entire article (or book!) about this step but I’ll try to keep it simple here as a reminder to be aware of your body and how you feel throughout the day. Perhaps set an alarm on your phone every hour to pause, reassess, and readjust.
Take a break from looking at the computer screen by looking away. Stretch out those eye muscles. Notice your head on your neck. Is your neck reaching forwards? Tuck your chin and roll those shoulders back. How about your bodily functions? Are you hungry or need to use the bathroom? Take care yourself! Get up and walk around a bit. Stretch out those legs.
When, and if, you return to the office, you can apply these steps to your work area there as well and perhaps re-evaluate its efficiency and comfort. In the meantime, happy working from home!
If you need help creating a comfortable home office or want more details about how to be body mindful, contact me here.