Being someone that works from home, sitting behind a desk, or on the couch can be really exhausting for the body and mind. Having a proper ergonomic office is really important to ensure your safety and comfort so you can deliver your best performance.
Why are home office ergonomics so important?
Home ergonomics is all about how your body interacts with all the office tools and space while working. Incorporating ergonomics into the home office set up, helps you to improve your efficiency and productivity by being comfortable and help you prevent any unnecessary stress and injury.
Since we are living in a digital revolution, the workplace is changing all the time, and people are working more hours, sitting more, working from home, or other non-traditional offices.
Implementing ergonomics is essential because while working from home, your body can be stressed by staying in an uncomfortable position for a long time, or doing repetitive movements. This can result in affecting your musculoskeletal system. MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) are accountable for one-third of the injuries, so setting up a workstation suitable to the user’s anthropometry eliminates the possibility of bad posture.
The quality of the work is improved by having proper ergonomics in the home office. It also enhances the engagement of the user and boosts morale. Poor ergonomics, like inadequate chair height or bad desk positioning, are leading to frustrated workers, that are not performing their job as they should be.
When organizing your home office, the things you are using the most should be close to you, and the less frequently used should be in the drawers. This will help you not to spend additional time looking for stuff and be more productive.
Knowing how to ergonomically design your home office so you can have good posture, fewer motions, and better reaches, allows injuries and illness rates to be reduced.
How to properly set up the ergonomics in your office?
By just putting the computer, the printer and all things that are related to the work and even the favorite coffee mug on some desk in your house doesn’t mean that you will be using them in the right way. It’s of utmost importance to .properly setup the ergonomics in your home office. This will help you in improving your productivity, by minimizing the reaching for stuff and prevent the stress of uncomfortable sitting and injury.
There are a lot of furniture options that will help you in creating the best possible ergonomic home office and keep you healthy while you are working.
Choose the right height for your chair and desk
While setting up the home office, you should buy a desk, corner desk or laptop station that fits your needs. Then you need to adjust the desk, so it is not too high or too low for your body type, and avoid muscular injuries. Most of the desks that you have used to work or study are not positioned accordingly. Proper positioning of the desk is when you can type on the keyboard, with your elbows bent at around 45 degrees.
Buying a quality office chair is also really important in keeping the right posture. Properly sitting means that your feet should be supported by the floor, or at a footrest if the desk height can’t be adjusted. Your legs should be at a 90-degree angle so you can relieve the pressure out of your back, also having excellent lumbar support that is adjustable to keep your back straight.
Overall, there shouldn’t be straining of joints or any pressure at the back of your knees (which should be slightly higher and almost a fist away from the edge of the chair’s seat) while completing your daily tasks.
Another important thing in keeping the right posture is having your thighs and forearms parallel to the floor, and your hands and wrists in line with your forearms when seated. This helps in taking preventative measures of injuries that have repetitive motions. Usually, most of the desks are too high for this position.
Proper distance from the monitor
Your desk should be suitable to have all the stuff you are continually using, as well as to have proper distance from the monitor to your eyes. The preferred distance is 20 inches. The top of the monitor should be positioned so it will be just above your eye level, i.e. your vision cone (your eyes should be directed slightly downward) so it won’t cause neck and eye strain.
If the monitor is too far away, people tend to come closer to see better, no matter the age. There is one interesting rule: If you can touch the screen with the tips of your fingers, then you are in the right position.
Your home office should have adequate lighting. Usually, in most of the corporate offices, there are really bright lights that are causing glare on the monitor screen and are one of the causes for employees’ headaches. When you are setting your home office, you can easily adjust, so you don’t need to have a bright light shining directly to you, or onto the monitor and limit the view. By using both natural and artificial light, you are reducing the risk of eye strain and headaches.
Also if you are set up next to a sunny window, the trick is to install blinds at the right angles of the windows. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is recommending installing vertical blinds for east-west windows and horizontal blinds for north-south windows.
Improve your circulation
Since you are working from your own home office, you may forget how much time you have spent, seating in front of the computer, working. Sitting in one place for an extended period, even if you have ergonomically correct furniture, repeating the same moves, can stress your body and mind. It is hard to disrupt the creative flow while working, but it is necessary to move from your desk to stretch or to stand a few times a day. So you can use different muscles in your body and improve your circulation.
A lot of people are spending a lot of money, taking care of themselves, outside of work, whether is a gym or eating healthy food. But going to the gym or eating correctly, does not prevent the bad posture at work.
Is implementing office ergonomics worth the cost?
Is implementing office ergonomics worth the costs? Yes, totally. Not only that they worth the price, but they will return to you many times in the future.
There is nothing more important than to invest and spend a few hundred dollars on proper ergonomics, especially for remote workers, working from home usually means working with being lounged on the sofa or on the bed.
It will pass some time before you recognize that you have a problem, whether it’s an MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) or RSIs (repetitive strain injuries), and it will take months to heal properly so you will be working to pay your medical bills, instead of buying things that will improve your life.
Buying suitable furniture may be a bit pricey upfront. However, it will last longer, all furniture will be customized according to your needs, and you will save a lot of money in the long run.
For example, if you hurt your neck, it won’t heal in a short time. You can even struggle with the pain for the rest of your life. All this will come out with lower productivity and decreased the quality of the end-products.
Working from home means that you still have an employer, so it is a mutual benefit and cost advantage to having a healthy and happy worker. Sometimes the employer can invest in good ergonomic furniture to lower the level of absenteeism, lower the cost of compensations, recruitment costs, etc. On the other hand, the employees will feel more valued, with improved health and positive feelings towards the whole work environment.
Home distractions and how to avoid them?
Working from home can be really tough sometimes, because of the never-ending distractions from your family members. Even if you are perfectly organized, it can be challenging to balance your work, career, and family in the same place. So the most important thing to do when you are working from home is to put a door between you and your family. You will have only the distractions that you have made. A safe place where you can have uninterrupted peace and quiet, where you can entirely focus on your job.
Even if you are living alone, it is preferred to have a designated workplace, rather than the kitchen table or couch. So when you sit on the couch to watch TV, you won’t feel like you are at work and enjoy your free time.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of home ergonomics?
There are many advantages of implementing ergonomics in your home office, including increased comfort, which results in users being more energized, finish tasks with more accuracy and higher efficiency. Also, an ergonomically friendly office can result in decreased injuries and less fatigue.
The disadvantages are connected mainly with higher upfront costs. Since the ergonomic furniture is customized according to its user needs, it is a bit costlier than the furniture that is one size fits all. For example, one chair that is perfect for one person, it doesn’t work very well for another, and this brings its own higher price tag. In the long run, all these upfront costs are exceeded by the many advantages that are gained by the implemented ergonomics.
What can be ergonomic risk factors in the home office?
Ergonomic risk factors that can cause an MSD can be awkward and static postures, repetition, cold temperatures, etc. Awkward postures can overload the muscles and place too much pressure on the joints. Also, many daily tasks have a repetitive nature. When these factors are present individually or in combination, the risk of appearing or causing an MSD’s is much higher.