As we all have had to move our entire days into our homes during this lockdown period, many of us are now working from home. Some of the questions we are now having to ask ourselves is, “how do I increase my productivity in this new work space,” and “how am I going to accomplish as much as I used to from my home?” But an important question we should also be asking ourselves is, “is my workspace ergonomic for my body type?”
What is Ergonomic?
According to Dohrmann Consulting, Australia’s leading safety and ergonomics expert, “Ergonomics is the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems so that they fit the people who use them.”
Why does it matter?
The idea is that by improving your workspace, you can minimise your risk of injury. The world’s most common work-related disability is lower back pain. And as a spa that constantly massages clients that work in offices, the low back is one of the most common areas we are asked to focus on.
Some other common injuries that come from a workspace that is not ergonomic are:
- Computer back: caused by curving your back, having forward head posture and rounding your shoulders and neck in an almost hunchback posture, causing headaches and neck and upper back pain.
- Mouse Shoulder: this comes from having your mouse positioned ergonomically incorrectly, and therefore you overcompensate by bracing your shoulder for short range movements, which can cause severe shoulder spasms and referred pain in the arm.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: caused by the compression of your median nerve which passes through your wrist, this can cause numbness or tingling in your thumb or fingers, as well as pain and/or weakness in your ability to grasp with those fingers.
- Tennis Elbow: elbow and forearm pain that can manifest in finger motions as well as radiate up or down the arm.
So how do I make my workspace ergonomic?
First start with your chair.
- Find the best chair where you can sit with your feet flat on the floor and your thighs as close to parallel to the floor as possible. As most of us don’t have adjustable chairs at home, if you find your chair is either too tall or too short for this, feel free to utilise what you have in your home such as books to help with the height. If the char is too short you can put books under the legs of the chair (or you can sit on the books themselves although this may be less comfortable) to increase the height of the chair. If you are too short to reach the floor then you can place the books on the ground under your feet.
- Next we get to having a backrest that allows you to recline. This is especially good for people with back pain. Ideally you’ll attempt to adjust your chair to be able to lean up to 135 degrees, although this might be quite difficult at home. If your chair doesn’t have this, you can sit forward on your chair and use pillows or rolled up blankets on the back to allow you to sit back. And if you sit back on the chair you can use the pillows or blankets for lumbar support as well.
Next is your desk.
Height is the most important ergonomic consideration when it comes to your desk. If it’s too low, it may cause you to hunch. If it’s too high you may have to strain your shoulders to rest comfortably. Your desk should be high enough that you can cross your legs comfortably under it. If your desk is too low, you can raise it by placing books under the legs. If it’s too high then you can adjust the height of your chair accordingly. You must also have your arms angled between 90 and 110 degrees when they rest on the desk.
Something else to consider may be to try a standing desk. You can try working at a counter in the kitchen for a while so you can stand and get your blood moving a little while you work. If your counter is too short you can stack some books and rest your computer on it. If your counter is too high you can always stand on something to make you tall enough to have your arms at that 90-110 degree angle.
Finally we have your computer versus laptop
- Distance-wise, you want your computer monitor at about 51cm (20 inches) so you don’t have to strain your eyes to read what’s on it.
- You also want to angle your screen appropriately. 10 to 20 degrees will allow you to work without having to strain your neck.
- The height of your computer should be at about your eye level. This only works if you have a monitor and keyboard.
- The most important consideration here is for your wrists to be neutral. This may mean you need to put your computer on a binder to angle it or on a book to elevate it. You may even want to consider resting your forearms on the binder. Whatever helps you keep those wrists in a neutral position.
- You also want to angle your laptop screen so you are straining your neck the least amount possible. This may be a bit of trial an error. If you feel over time that your neck is feeling sore, try changing the position of something to see if that helps alleviate the pain.
Finally, the best thing you can do to help your body feel good while working in your new space is movement. Getting up and stretching, moving, meditating, exercising, de-stressing, and changing whatever you need to increase your comfort will keep you feeling good until the spa opens up again and you can come get a massage to help loosen up those computer-job muscles.
Most information (and great images) were found at: http://ergonomictrends.com/creating-perfect-ergonomic-workspace-ultimate-guide/