Ergonomic Tips for Working from Home

With more individuals working from home than ever due to ongoing quarantine measures, our bodies may be taking a toll from working at makeshift home office setups. The main culprits being low back pain; other musculoskeletal aches and pains; headaches and migraines; as well as eyestrain and eye dryness. Listed below are common strategies for improving your workstation:

The Chair:

If you find yourself sitting at a desk for long periods, it is important to make sure that your chair promotes proper body positioning that does not cause neck, back, shoulder or arm discomfort.

What to Look For:

  • Back Rest: It should be high enough that your back feels supported and have adjustable lumbar support. Recommended backrest recline is between approximately 90-110°. No lumbar support? Place a small cushion or folded clothing behind the small of your back.
  • Seat Height: Your thighs should be straight, knees bent at 90°, and both feet flat on the ground. Using a footrest is helpful if your feet do not quite reach.
  • Seat Depth: There should be approximately 3” of space between the edge of the seat and the back of your knees.
  • Arm Rests: Elbows should be in-line with your shoulders and at a height that your shoulders should be relaxed and not shrugged.

The Work Surface:

Gold standard work surfaces allow for both seated and standing positions. There are many commercial options available today, but for those on a budget, we recommend finding two appropriate surfaces around the home. You may also build up your current desk by stacking sturdy textbooks or boxes on a non-slip surface.

What to Look For:

  • Seated Station Height: The work surface should be at about elbow height. There should be enough clearance between your legs and the tabletop to allow you to cross them.
  • Keyboard & Mouse: Items should be directly in front and at a height that promotes a neutral wrist.
  • Commonly Used Items: Frequently used items required for a task should be placed within reaching distance.
  • Document Holder: Doing a lot of copy work? Have a document holder beside your monitor to reduce neck strain. For purely digital work, having two monitors is recommended.
  • Cable Clips:Tiny desk-mounted clips can hold all your charging cables in place. No more crawling under your desk to find the right cable!

The Monitor:

Not only is monitor positioning important but your computer settings are important as well. Beyond this, the best non-pharmaceutical intervention for tired eyes is taking a break. Looking out a window into the distance frequently provides opportunities for your eye muscles to relax. Proper monitor setup and good screen hygiene can reduce neck and eye strain, headaches, and sleep disruptions.

What to Look For:

  • Monitor Distance: The monitor should be armlength distance or greater from your eyes. It should also be directly in front of you so that your neck is aligned.
  • Monitor Height: The top of the screen should be at eye-level with no neck craning.
  • Monitor Brightness: Match the monitor brightness to the lighting in the room. Having a working lamp nearby is also helpful.
  • Reduce Blue Light: Blue light has been shown to affect sleep. Use your computer’s “night mode” or download programs free programs such as f.lux to change your screen’s colour settings to warmer tones.

There are many changes that can be made to your work station to make it ergonomically sound. Take a few minutes, assess your office area, and see where some of the tips covered today may apply. If you need additional support or have any questions, please reach out!

-Selina Huang