For some workplaces, hybrid and remote work are here to stay. Although an at-home workstation can feel alright for the short-term, it could potentially have long-term consequences on your musculoskeletal health if ergonomics is not considered.
The lack of an appropriately setup ergonomic workstation may lead to experiencing low back pain or tightness in the neck and shoulders due to bad posture and lack of support while working from home.
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics can be described as a science that is concerned with how humans interact with objects around them. In an office workspace, for instance, the objects of interaction would be the desk, chair, computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse. A kinesiologist would use ergonomics to ensure that the office worker is interacting with these objects in a way that would minimize any strain/injury to their body.
How to setup your workstation at home
There are generally three kinds of home workstations, but the same rules of ergonomics apply to all of them – the home office, the couch, and standing at a table or kitchen counter.
For all three types of workstations, keep in mind the 90 Rule: keep 90 degree angles at the ankles, knees, hips and elbows when seated, and 90 degree angles at the ankles and elbows when standing.
Home office workstation
- Desk and seat height: your seat should be adjusted to the height where you can have your elbows at 90 degrees when using your keyboard.
- Back support: you might want to place a small pillow or rolled up towel in the natural curve of your low back to help provide some back support.
- Foot positioning: in some cases, adjusting the seat to accommodate for desk height can cause difficulty with placing the feet flat on the ground to achieve 90 degrees at the ankles. In this case, use an object such as a yoga block to place the feet on.
- Computer screen: If you are using a desktop rather than a laptop, be sure to adjust the monitor in a way that it is directly at eye level to avoid looking downward. You may want to place it on a textbook or block to elevate the surface if the monitor is not adjustable.
- Pillows, pillows and more pillows: pillows will be used to provide back support as well as to elevate the surface to put your laptop on, preventing your wrists from bending as you type.
- Foot positioning: similar to the last scenario, if you are unable to place your feet flat on the floor, you can use an object such as a yoga block to achieve the 90 rule.
- Your standing workstation might be the kitchen counter, or maybe you just want to take a break from sitting at your desk. In this case, you can use books to elevate the surface your laptop is placed on to achieve a 90 degree angle at the elbows.
In addition to a proper ergonomic setup, it is important to be mindful of your posture when sitting, and you should incorporate regular standing breaks to avoid being seated for long periods of time.
If you’d like assistance with assessing your home workstation or need help relieving pain you’ve developed over the past few months, you can schedule an appointment through Virtual Care or in-person services. Contact a pt Health clinic near you or book an appointment online.
This article was originally published by Lifemark and written by Elisa Hemmati, Kinesiologist at Lifemark Sport Medicine Richmond Oval in Richmond (BC)