For many people, working from home came as an unexpected and unplanned result of the pandemic. It required hastily putting together a slapdash short-term solution so that work could get done with limited interruption. However, many companies are continuing to keep employees in a work from home environment for at least several months to come.
Hunching over a laptop and sitting in unsupportive chairs for hours may now be taking its toll on the body. But how do you stave off those aches and pains without spending some serious cash on new home office furniture? Don’t worry, there are some simple workspace options that can provide an ergonomic upgrade.
Rule #1 – Don’t stay in the same spot for hours at a time.
You move MUCH less when you work from home. There are no trips to visit other co-workers, no walking to the break room to get a refill on coffee or water, and no trips to the conference room for meetings. Your day is now consumed by your laptop and most likely a Zoom meeting or 10. Regardless of how busy your schedule is, you don’t want to spend more than 30 to 90 minutes in one position. So if you’ve been sitting down for an hour, spend the next hour working in a standing position if possible – a pub height table or counter may work well in lieu of purchasing a sit/stand desk.
If you don’t have the option to stand while you work, take a few minutes every hour or so to just move around your home and get your body moving.
Rule #2 – Don’t sit in a crummy chair
Your chair back at the office probably had several different adjustments that you were able to make to it so that it was comfortable for you. However, now that you are working from home, that kitchen chair or old folding chair just isn’t cutting it.
Having a chair that’s both comfortable and supportive is key to your body’s health. If purchasing a new chair isn’t in the budget, you may be able to make some small tweaks with items you have in your home to improve your comfort. This may include rolling up a small towel to provide lumbar support or adding towels or cushions to the seat of the chair to increase the height.
Rule #3 – Don’t use just your laptop
Laptops are great portable devices to get your work done, but most people in a rush to grab the essentials from their offices didn’t spend much time grabbing additional accessories that could have been very helpful.
Working from home for an extended period of time would have been a lot easier for most with a monitor and external keyboard and mouse. Relying on just your laptop to get work done can become very cumbersome over time. Leaning over a laptop every day can cause neck and back issues. It may be worth seeing if a trip to the office to grab your accessories is possible. If not, you may be able to find a budget-friendly option to purchase – then you’ll always have accessories in your home should you need them. Try lifting your laptop up with items from around the house, so that it is eye level and using the external keyboard and mouse below on the table – your neck and back will thank you.
Rule #4 – Avoid mixing exercise and work
Yes, exercise is key to your health and wellbeing, but you may want to avoid mixing it with trying to work! Adding an exercise element to a workstation where you are going to spending 8 hours a day, probably isn’t a great plan. We all love a good core workout but sitting on an exercise ball all day can cause more harm than good. 5 or 10 minutes at a time is great but activating and stabilizing your core all day can put more pressure on your back.
You’ve probably seen a version of a treadmill desk advertised at some point over the past few years and think, hey, I have a treadmill, I’ll make my own. Great in theory however the ergonomics of working while sitting are very different than while standing and walking. It could get a little dangerous if you are trying to speed walk and type at the same time. A good compromise would be walking on the treadmill while on phone calls vs. while on the computer.
Working from home is likely to become the new normal for many people as companies figure out when to bring people back into the office. Some companies are even finding that employees are more productive and happier working from home, and it may be a permanent option. In any case, if you find that you’re having a hard time making your home more ergonomic, reach out to your employer to see what options are available.
Washington Branch Manager, Assistant Vice President