As all of us have started working from home for long periods of time, it is more important than ever to adjust your home workstation to prevent unwanted strain and injury. The neck, back, wrists, and eyes can become painful or irritated even after one day, and with prolonged work in an improper desk setup can cause severe inflammation. Here is some information to determine if your home setup is appropriate for you along with exercises to keep you mobile throughout the day.
Ergonomic Tips for Setting Up Home Work Space
- Avoid doing any work in bed or on a sofa.
- Make sure your chair and table/desk height are appropriate and that you are not hunched over.
- Adjust the monitor to arm’s length away to reduce strain on eye. The top of your screen should be at eye level. If you need to use a laptop, place it on a kickstand or books to raise the screen to eye level.
- If you are using two monitors, your body should be in the middle of the two screens
- Make sure the elbows are bent at 90 degrees
- Make sure the keyboard is placed in a position to protect wrists from being in extended position for too long.
- When using a mouse, move from elbow not shoulder to reduce overuse injury.
- Avoid resting your wrists on the desk surface as this can cause a painful condition called carpal tunnel syndrome. There are mousepads with built in wrist bumpers, but you can consider placing a rolled up hand towel to remind yourself to keep them elevated.
- When using a phone, use a headset or headphones.
- Your feet should rest comfortably on the ground. If not, then use a footrest or reams of paper
- If you have a standing desk, be sure to wear comfortable and supportive shoes. You can even stand on a yoga mat to reduce strain on the arches of your feet, as they will be supporting your weight for several hours throughout the day.
Take Breaks and Stretch Often
- Get up every hour and take breaks to walk around house, get a snack, stay hydrated, and chat with family.
- Stretching exercises have been designed to warm up muscles, improve flexibility and help prevent soft-tissue injuries. Stretches should be brief, no longer than five min in duration to complete.
- Stretching should not cause pain or discomfort. In general, you want to stretch your body parts in the direction opposite to the positions while working.
- Low Back Stretch: While standing, place both of your hands on your low back. Slowly bend backwards as far as is comfortable. Do not extend the neck to prevent straining the muscles around the neck. Hold for five seconds then return to upright posture. Repeat five times.
- Overhead Stretch: Reach above your head by stretching your arms up and interlocking your fingers. Hold for five seconds, repeat five times.
- Shoulder Circles: Raise both shoulders up as far as possible toward your ears. Now make shoulder circles bringing shoulders backward, downward, forward and upward again. Perform ten times in one direction, repeat ten times in opposite direction
- Neck Side Bend: Tilt your head sideways, pulling your ear towards shoulder. Hold for five seconds and repeat three times on each side
- Neck Rotation: Turn your head as if looking over the shoulder, return to center. Repeat to other side. Hold for five seconds and repeat three times on each side.
- Wrist Stretch: Extend your arm in front with palm facing down, with your opposite hand, bend your wrist downwards until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for five seconds. Repeat with palm up. Repeat in the other arm.
- The light source near your workspace should be positioned ideally at a 45 degree angle from the eyes
- Avoid having windows or bright lights behind the computer screen.
- Adjust the brightness and contrast of monitor to suit the environment. Reduce the brightness of screens (computer, phones, or tablet) at night before bedtime.
- Workers over fifty years old often require twice as much light to complete tasks comfortably.
Preventing Eye Strain
- 20/20/20 rule. Every twenty minutes, look at a point twenty feet away for twenty seconds. This allows the eyes to stretch out muscles and reduce eyestrain.
- Use natural tears and blink often. When we stare at computer screens for long periods of time, we naturally stop blinking, which is how our eyes normally stay moist. Blinking and using natural saline tear drops can help soothe your eyes and feel less tired. Applying a washcloth moistened with warm water, with gentle pressure over the eyes can also be effective.
Take some time to make sure you feel comfortable in your workspace and not try to “make do” with your current setup. You may find this could improve your productivity and prevent injuries.