Home office ergonomics and Hacks

“Home is where you brew your coffee and sip your tea”. Let’s add to this saying “home is where I work the most”.

More people than ever are working from home thanks to what mother nature brought upon us- the novel coronavirus! Which means it is extremely important to make your home workstation a safe place that prevents injuries.

Heads Up! This Post contains affiliate links! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you buy something through one of those links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I will get a small commission. Really small!! Which helps keep this website going!

Most people working from home are working on a desktop or a laptop. Work from home veterans probably have a good office space set up for them. But some of us newbies, or occasional working from home folks might need some hacks to setup a decent workstation. How many of you are rotating from dinning table to couch to bed? Have you noticed any neck pain, upper back pain or low back pain? Yes, most likely from improper ergonomics while working.

What is ERGONOMICS? It is a process of arranging work spaces to fit the people using them so as to minimize injuries. Ergonomics applies to every occupation- electricians, drivers, construction workers, office workers. In this post I am focusing on ergonomics for desktop/ laptop users. Let’s break it down:

1. Head/ Neck

Your head should be vertical to your neck. It’s easy and straightforward.

Fun fact– Your head weighs about 10-12 pounds in neutral position, which is vertical on your neck.

Not so fun fact– As your head tilts forward, the weight on the spine keeps increasing at different angles. The forces on the neck increases to 27 pounds at 150 of head tilt, 49 pounds at 450, and 60 pounds at 600.1The muscles of the neck needs to work extra hard as your head tilts forward. The lowest muscle activity was found at 00 of neck flexion – vertical head posture. And the highest muscle activity has been found at 450 of neck flexion.2

To keep your head vertical, your screen should be at eye level.

2. Elbows, Hands and Wrists

My Healthy wrists post explains in detail why its important to follow good ergonomics. Let’s go over it again briefly-

Elbows should be at 900 flexion/ bent or slightly lower when you are typing. Wrists should be straight and neutral, not hinged up or down. Avoid using thick gel pads that force your wrist to hinge up.

3. Sitting Posture

Choose a chair that supports your natural spinal curves. While you sit, it is important to have a good low back support and have feet supported. You might need a small foot raise to achieve this balance.

Let’s put this together:

Find a table that allows your elbows to be at 900 or a little lower while typing. If you are using a laptop, this height is not ideal for your screen as it forces your head to tilt down.

To maintain your head vertical, raise the laptop so the screen is at eye level and head neutral. You can accomplish this by using thick phone books (if you have any), or a step stool. But that makes you reach high to type, which is not ideal.

The ideal ergonomic setup for a laptop:

  1. Laptop stand– Using household hacks like books or step stool. Or you can purchase an inexpensive laptop stand or a monitor stand
A step stool to raise the laptop
  1. An external wireless keyboard
  2. Wireless mouse

Last but not the least- Movement. Our bodies are meant to move. Its important to do Neck exercises throughout the day to avoid stiffness. Prolonged static postures tend to cause stiffness in our body. Where am I going with this? Taking a Stand. YES. STAND UP every so often. That often is different for everyone. I cannot sit for more than 30 mins without feeling the need to stand up. You might feel that need sooner or later. Listen to your body.

Increased muscular discomforts have been reported with prolonged sitting. And changing postures between sitting and standing has been proposed to reduce those discomforts.3 “I do not have time to stop working and stretch so often.” Are these words going through your mind? I understand. We are measured by our productivity at work. That brings me to the Hoola of sit-stand desks.

Sit-stand desks have shown to reduce the complaints of low back pain and other muscular discomforts,3 without affecting work efficiency considerably.4

No guarantees of efficiency with those little humans with you!!

If you do not wish to invest in a sit stand desk, there are some ways you can work while standing.

  1. Setup your workstation on a chest of drawers, like what i did here. It depends on your height and how high the drawers are to make this work. I have used a stack of books to raise my laptop up. This setup works great for me when i do my telehealth physical therapy sessions as i do not type much while in session.
Chest of drawers standing desk
  1. An ironing board can work as a stand up desk or a sit down desk depending on how you set it up.

If you expect this working from home culture to continue long term, it is advisable to make some permanent changes to create a safe workstation. This sit-stand desk on amazon serves well without taking up too much real estate.

Make these changes to your workstation to avoid injuries. Do not forget to change your posture and exercise (let’s say MOVE) often during working hours.

Would love to hear what other household hacks to setup a workstation have worked for you?

4 thoughts on “Home office ergonomics and Hacks

  1. Wow shweta very well penned down an lovely and accurate piece of information shared that we all miss in our busy schedule. But I’m going to try some with Kaavya and some with myself too!! Keep writing and sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.