Is your home office ergonomic?
We are several months into the pandemic and so many of us are still working and learning from home. The workstations we have set up at home for ourselves and our children may not be optimal for comfort. This article outlines some things you can do (and not do) to improve the situation. Your bodies will thank you for it.
We are seeing a lot of patients with upper back, neck, and shoulder discomfort. Not only does the position of your workstation contribute to discomfort, but an increased level of stress also adds to it.
We also tend to think that children are more flexible and physically resilient to body aches and pains. While this can be somewhat true, our bodies, at any age, are not designed to do any one thing for long stretches of time. This includes sitting at a desk, working on a computer, and studying.
Ergonomic Suggestions for Your Home Office
Leg Room – Be sure you have enough legroom. If you have made a make-shift desk, often your legroom is compromised. If you are sitting in front of drawers or a cabinet you can’t stretch your legs out like you would at a normal desk. Also, you can prop your feet on a small block or cushion to get the right angle for your back. This is helpful for kids who are sitting at tables with their feet dangling. Ideally, your knees should be level with your hips.
Back Support – Are you missing your comfy office chair? Using a dining room table chair (straight back) or something else not designed to sit for longer stretching of time? If you don’t want to invest in an ergonomic office chair for home, be sure the chair you do use has proper lumbar (low back) support. You can use a pillow, rolled-up towel, or cushion to help with this.
Screen Level – Your computer screen should be at eye level so you can look straight ahead. If it is too low or too high your neck will soon let you know. Laptops are really not for your laps, despite the name. When you hold your laptop on your lap it forces you to look down at your screen – which is not a good position for your head, neck, and shoulders. This can also be harder on your eyes. Stack books to set your laptop on until you are looking straight at your computer while seated comfortably in your chair.
Lighting – Lighting is important to reduce strain on your eyes. Also, if you aren’t squinting and moving forward to see your screen, your neck will feel better. If you have a window in your workspace, position your desk so the window is to your side. You don’t want it directly in front of or behind you. This will allow for natural light but cut down on the glare.
Take Regular Breaks – People have been reporting that they tend to work more hours from home than in an office. Be sure to get up and stretch, walk around, and take breaks. Take a lunch break and eat away from your desk to give your eyes and brain a break from work. While there can be distractions at home, you don’t have your co-workers to interact with, so you may not be getting up from your desk as often as you would be at the office. If you have to, set a timer to take a break every 45 minutes or so.
Create a Standing Work Station – Standing for part of your work time can be a huge help to your back and neck. If you have a kitchen counter or other area where you can stand and work, try it out. This is where stacking books to get the right height for your laptop will really come in handy. Start by trying it for 30 minutes at a time a couple of times a day. A cushioned mat for your feet can also help.
Standing at a work station can also help some kids stay more focused.
Keyboard and Mouse Position – Make sure you aren’t stretching to reach your keyboard. When typing or using a mouse, your wrists should be straight, your elbows close to your body, and your hands even with your elbows or slightly lower.
Hands-Free Phone – If you have to talk on the phone frequently, invest in some earbuds or put your phone on speaker. Holding a phone for long periods of time can make your hand go numb and is hard on the shoulder. If you cock your head to hold your phone between your ear and your shoulder, you will feel pain in your neck pretty quickly.
Remember the 20-20-20 Rule – Don’t stare at your computer for too long. It can hurt your eyes. For every 20 minutes that you look at your screen, stare at something else for 20 seconds that is about 20 feet away. This changes your focus and allows your eyes to rest.
Downtime Screen time – Adults and kids use their phones, tablets, and computers for downtime too. Whether you are working or playing, use the same rules for screen time. If you are watching a movie on a laptop, be sure to still take some breaks and stretch. Make sure your back is supported too.
What can you improve?
Are there things on this list that you can do to improve your home workstation for you or your kids? Have you been experiencing more neck and upper back pain? We are happy to talk to you more about things you can do to improve your ergonomic home work station. We can also adjust you and your family with chiropractic care to keep you in top form. Chiropractic care improves posture and also helps with things like boosting your immune system, keeping your digestion on track, and helping with stress and sleep.
These are stressful times, but your body doesn’t have to suffer from the effects of stress. We can help.
To find more about Dr. Ryan and Dr. Allyson and their chiropractic practice and philosophy, click here.
To make an appointment please call (517) 781-4884