Working from home: how to create your workspace with postural security

During the pandemic, we have unexpectedly found ourselves working from home. For some, this might be the first time that they haven't had a dedicated workspace to go to. We want to show you how a well-configured home office can benefit your health, minimize the physical problems it entails, and make your life easier.

Working on the couch can seem idyllic; however, this can lead to numerous back problems later on. Whenever possible, we believe that a separate work area, where you can install a suitable chair, desk, and equipment, is more beneficial for home working.

This does not necessarily depend on space. With a little space planning and smart furniture, you can turn any little corner into a productive workspace.

4 ideas for an ergonomic approach

Just as you make many adjustments to your car's seat and steering wheel to suit your body, you also need to customize your home office. In fact, good ergonomic posture for an office is not that different from sitting in a car, with feet flat but legs extended and the body not vertical, but slightly tilted back.

1. Head and neck

To keep your neck, shoulders, and upper back injury free, your head must be in line with your neck. This position creates the least amount of tension.

If you are working with a laptop on the kitchen table, the screen will be too low and you will flex your neck forward. If you are working on the sofa, you will flatten your back but your arms will not be in a good position.

For short periods of time, these actions are probably harmless, however for the long term, consider mounting your laptop on a riser and using an external keyboard and mouse. If you have a monitor, use books to raise it to a comfortable level for the eyes, one that keeps your head and neck in that neutral position.

2. Position of the hand and wrist

Your hands and wrists should be in a neutral posture. Extend your arm and hand forward to lay them flat on the table. The hand, wrist and forearm should be flat on the table, with the elbow at approximately 90 degrees.

Make sure that whatever input device you are using, you can use it with your hands in the neutral position for as long as possible. So adjust your workspace accordingly. You may have to change the height of the table or chair if possible, or move the keyboard and mouse closer or further away from you. Keep your arms and wrists straight. The arms should not bend to the sides or across the midline of the body.

3. Sitting posture and back support

There is a myth that you should sit at 90 degrees, with the trunk of the body perpendicular to the floor. You should find a posture that allows you to see the screen while sitting in a way that provides support for your lower back. You may think of it as similar to sitting in the driver's seat of a car, tilted slightly back.

If you don't have a fancy office chair that swings back, try placing a cushion, pillow, or towel behind your lower back. That will help. You can also buy inexpensive chair cushions that are designed for lumbar support. These saddle-shaped products work with any chair and tilt the pelvis into a more ergonomic position. Shorter people may also find that having a footrest helps them achieve the correct posture. You want to make sure that the seat doesn't touch the back of your knees (the popliteal hollow) because it can reduce blood flow and cause your feet and ankles to swell.

4. How to behave

The last idea has to do with how we manage work time. Take frequent but short breaks - the ideal routine is about every 20 to 30 minutes. Stand up, stretch a bit, maybe for a minute or two. Even better, walk around and make a cup of tea or coffee or grab some water - staying hydrated is very important for the health of our muscles, tendons and ligaments. Movement improves blood circulation and especially lymphatic circulation, performance and attention. It also reduces the risk of injury by optimizing and limiting the time your body will be doing a repetitive action. For example, if your job involves typing a lot, consider using a speech-to-text app or dictation software. This way you can reduce the total amount of time your fingers are on the keyboard.

The right equipment to personalize your home office to make it more ergonomic

People commonly make the mistake of buying an expensive chair and that´s it. If you don't follow all four recommendations, you won´t get the best results. If you only adjust your computer screen to a good height, but never adjust how you sit or never adjust your keyboard or mouse, you will never get optimal results. The combined effect of all the steps to achieve a neutral posture is much greater than the effect of any single change.

Recommended equipment for home working:

  • Laptop riser

  • External keyboard

  • External mouse

  • Cushions and pillows

  • Rolled towel

  • Orthopedic seat

  • Footrest

  • Voice dictation software

  • Microphone

  • Lamp

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