It is easy to think that because you don’t work at a dangerous job, that you do not need to think about your health and safety. Because of this, office workers are prone to injuries that can be easily prevented. Enter, ergonomics. Many of us have heard of it, but we do not quite understand what it means and why it is important to every single one of us as someone who works at a desk.
At this time, many of us have had to move our workstations to our homes. While at work we may be more inclined to make our workstations ergonomic, we must take these same practical steps when we are working from home as well. Following these ergonomic guidelines whether at work or in a home office will ensure your safety.
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the study of the interaction between the kind of work you do, the environment you work in and the tools you use. When we consider the office worker, the average office worker spends most of their time at a desk, looking at a computer and sitting in an office chair. At a glance, it seems that there isn’t much danger present for an office worker. When we take a deeper look, we can identify problem areas such as posture, repetitive movements, light, noise, air quality, temperature and the tools that are used to do an office job (such as the set-up of a workstation).
These problem areas can cause fatigue along with pains in your back, hand, wrist, arms, neck and shoulders. These stressors can be aggravated by previous injuries, or they can get worse overtime if they are not dealt with accordingly.
Now that we understand what ergonomics is and how it applies to an office worker, let’s move on to what can be done to improve ergonomics in the (home) office.
Home Office Tips
Working from home presents unique challenges that go beyond the setup of your workstation. Having an ergonomic home office must include all aspects of the situation, and you must take care to ensure your health and safety even while at home. These are some simple measures that you can take that will ensure your health and safety while working from home.
- Set up a designated workstation
- Maintain a routine, similar to the one you had while being in the office
- Stay hydrated
- Take regular breaks
- Stay connected with colleagues through video and messaging tools
- Practice good electrical safety
These simple measures allow you to keep a healthy and safe work environment for yourself and those who live with you. The following measures specifically address ergonomic issues that arise with the setup of your workstation.
An easy way to have good office ergonomics is to keep moving. Vary your posture and position throughout the day. Simply, standing up, walking around or doing some light stretches can prevent fatigue and body pains. Consider alternating between standing and working and sitting and working. Be sure to maintain proper ergonomics while both sitting and standing by properly positioning your body in relation to your computer and desk.
Maintain Good Head and Neck Posture
The position of your monitor will directly influence the strain you feel on your body. The position of your monitor should be directly in front of you, while you should be eye level with the center of the screen. This should be maintained while sitting and standing. When working at the monitor your neck and shoulders should be in a relaxed position, if more than one screen is being used be sure that you can easily see them without having to crane your neck. Ideally, your whole body should move while facing your work.
Reduce Eye Strain
Being in front of a monitor all day, can cause strain on your eyes. Resting your eyes frequently will help reduce eye strain. A rule of thumb is the 20-20-20 rule. Which states that every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from looking at your monitor, while looking at something that is 20 feet away.
Beyond resting your eyes, you should also consider the lighting in your office as well as your computer settings. The lighting in your office should not be too bright or dim, which can cause blurred vision and headaches. Yellow hues are easier on the eyes than blue hues which are common in florescent lights. In terms of your computer screen, there should be enough contrast to reduce eye strain, and the brightness level should also be low to reduce eye strain.
Be Aware of Your Posture
Whether you are sitting or standing, be aware of your posture. Do not slouch. While at your workstation, ensure that your head, neck and shoulders are relaxed. Your elbows should be close to your body at about a 90-degree angle, while your forearms, wrists and hands should be in a straight line and parallel to the floor. Moving your mouse and keyboard to ensure that your elbows are in the correct position will reduce strain on your body.
While sitting at your workstation, maintain good posture by sitting as far back in your chair as possible, in doing so, the back of the chair will support you upper and lower back.
When we participate and maintain an ergonomic workstation; whether at home or in the office, we will reduce injuries and fatigue that can be experienced while working in an office setting.