The past year has thrown some unexpected challenges at us all. It’s been strange and outright weird at times. I spent 2020 down in Melbourne where almost overnight, a large percentage of individuals all across the state had to make a transition to working from home. Some were fortunate enough to have a dedicated workspace to move straight into while others had to make do with what they had. An old laptop, a dining room table, hard wooden chair and a busy and loud house. Here in Queensland, there may not have been a transition to work from home on the magnitude like there was in Melbourne, however, there is still an increasing number of individuals now working from the discomfort of their own homes. This blog post will go into detail about some tips for how to setup your space to work from home and also get into some good habits.
Chair – The chair is what you’ll be spending a lot of your time on, it should provide you with comfort and back support, but also be at a height that is comfortable relative to your desk setup. The ideal chair has 5 points of contact with the floor for an even weight distribution, it swivels, has an adjustable height and tilt as well as having ideal comfort (Woo et al, 2016) . Sitting on a wooden chair can get sore over time and typically won’t provide you with the back support you need.
Computer Screen & Setup – This completely depends on what type of computer you’ll be using. Let’s start with the laptop, sitting at a desk with a laptop can work for you under certain conditions, but like with everything there are always improvements that can be made to take the load off of certain structures that may otherwise be put under unnecessary strain. The centre of the laptop or desktop screen that you are looking at should ideally be at eye level, the more we have to tilt our necks down, the more pressure we get on the neck and spine (Bridger, 2018). If you have some spare books lying around you can put these under the laptop to bring it up to eye level. A wireless mouse and keyboard can be useful in this particular set up, and are recommended to be at a similar height to the elbows to prevent any strain from occurring within the wrist, elbow and shoulder (Leyshon et al., 2010). It is important to note here that if you are using multiple screens that they should be at the same height, so that you aren’t looking up and down when going between screens.
Desk – You might be able to get away with working at the dining table for a short period of time but if you’re going to be there for a large portion of the week then it may become a problem. Having a spacious and uncluttered workspace makes a difference in the long run. Start by setting it up into 3 zones. The primary zone is what is closest to you, this will have the things you use the most (Keyboard, mouse, something to write on). The secondary zone is where your focus should be. The computer or laptop will be in this space and should sit as level to eye height as possible. Lastly the non working zone is where everything else sits, mostly out of reach but still there if needed. Your phone and other utilities can go here so that they do not cause distraction.
Workspace – Let’s start by saying that sitting on the bed or couch is not sustainable, we tend to not have great support in these positions and can get into a slouched posture which can lead to increased strain on structures and tissues through the neck, back and shoulders. Try to find an area in the house where you can get some peace and quiet so that you can work to your full capability. Regular breaks are also advised, get up once an hour to fill up the drink bottle, stretch out and walk around can keep you from sitting for too long. Do your best to be conscious of your posture to avoid falling into that slumped posture!
Of course I’m not telling you to go out today and drop your weekly savings on a revamped ergonomic setup. You will have to decide for yourself how much you are going to be working from home in order to make the necessary adjustments. This blog post is supposed to make you think about your workspace and critically analyse if it’s working for you. Use this to help your decision making process in how much you are willing to invest into your setup. The osteopaths here at The Whole Body Clinic are all trained to offer advice on your workspace, if you feel like you could use some advice, take a picture of your workspace and bring it to one of our osteopaths who can give you the necessary information to help you work better from home.
Dr Todd Stackpole – Osteopath
Bridger, R. S. (2018). Introduction to Human Factors and Ergonomics, 4th Edition. Boca Raton, FL, USA. CRC Press
Leyshon, R., Chalova, K., Gerson, L., Savtchenko, A., Zakrzewski, R., Howie, A., & Shaw, L. (2010). Ergonomic Interventions for Office Workers with Musculoskeletal Disorders: A Systematic Review. Work, 35(3), 335-348.
Woo, E. H. C., White, P., & Lai, C. W. K. (2016). Ergonomics Standards and Guidelines for Computer Workstation Design and the Impact on a Users Health – A Review. Ergonomics, 59(3), 464-475