stablishing a proper home office setup can be difficult and less than optimal setups can lead to repetitive strain and postural injuries over a prolonged period of time. There are many aspects to consider including lighting, chair type, computer type, and work surface.
As physiotherapists, we often discuss home office ergonomics with our clients to help them recover from injury and prevent further issues down the road.
Keep the area under your desk clear of other items so that you have room to move your legs and feet throughout the day. If your desk or table is too low, place some solid boards or blocks under its legs; if your desk is too high, raise your chair.
We will discuss your body positioning more under the “Chair” section.
Ensure the work surface is clear of clutter so you have room for any computer equipment, papers, pens/pencils, or other materials you will need to perform your work.
A chair with a built-in lumbar support can help provide the cushioning needed for your lower back. There are many types of lumbar rolls and cushions that can also be purchased to use with your chair if it does not have one built into it.
The most important thing to remember is that the chair can only work properly if you sit back in the chair. Many of us have a tendency to slide forward in the chair and then lose the support of the backrest for our body. Keep your buttocks as far back in the seat of the chair as you can to optimize the support the chair can provide you.
Lastly, if the chair is equipped with armrests, adjust them so that your elbows and forearms are supported with your upper arms at your sides. Shoulders should be in a relaxed position and elbows bent 90°-110°.
Firstly, center the monitor directly in front of you. The screen should be approximately an arms’ length away from you when you are sitting upright with your back against the backrest of the chair. The top of the monitor should be at or slightly below your eye level.
And lastly, if you wear bifocals, you may wish to lower the monitor an additional 1-2” to a comfortable reading level.
- Have the keyboard directly in front of your body
- Have the keyboard at a height that allows you to keep your upper arms at your sides and your elbows bent 90°-110°
- Keep the mouse as close to the side of the keyboard as possible to prevent reaching while using it
- Keep your wrists in a neutral position (not bent up or down at all)
Most of the above principles still apply for positioning. However, it can be tricky to achieve optimal screen and keyboard heights. Consider the use of an external keyboard which will allow the laptop screen to be at a good height and the external keyboard can then be at a lower height.
In the reverse scenario, a second screen could be used to be set at eye level and the laptop at a lower level conducive to keyboard use. There are also many inexpensive options available for a wireless or USB mouse that can be used instead of the laptop touch pad.
The added bonus of a laptop is the portability of it. It can be used on different heights of surfaces that allow position changes from sitting to standing. This prevents prolonged hours of working in just a sitting position.
- Copy Holders – these can be beneficial to prevent bending your neck repetitively to look down at documents. Place it close to your computer monitor to avoid having to rotate your neck repetitively throughout the day. Recipe book holders or tablet holders work great for this as well!
- Lighting – consider where the lighting sources are in the room. A window directly in front of you or behind you can produce distracting background contrast or unwanted glare on your screen. Both of these can lead to significant eye strain. Tilt your monitor as needed to reduce any glare from overhead lights.
- Telephone – headphones, ear buds, or a speaker phone are very helpful to prevent prolonged or repetitive neck strain from cradling a phone or arm strain from holding the phone to your ear.
Joints and muscles rely on movement to get their lubrication and nutrition. It is important to change position or take a quick break at least once per hour.
This can be as simple as standing up, walking around the table, and then sitting down again.
A timer set to 30 or 45 minutes can be a helpful reminder to move. Other options include performing a few quick stretches, squats, or back extensions.
Our physiotherapists can help tailor these to your specific needs.
Not only do joints and muscles need movement, but eyes do as well. To prevent eye strain, look away from your monitor and focus on something in the distance. This should be done for approximately 20 seconds at least once every 20 minutes.
If you need any help with your home office set up or have any questions relating to this information please give us a call. We can problem-solve any issues you may have either in-person or via a virtual call.