Heather’s Home Hacks: Ergonomics
Most of us are settling into the idea of working from home. There are plenty of articles about how to manage the transition from working in a traditional office setting to working from home. As I am acclimating to my own “new normal” routine and figuring out what works for me to be productive working from home, one unexpected concern emerged: at home ergonomics.
Many of us have model ergonomic settings in our offices, but what do we do now? We didn’t have time to recreate these settings at home, and we don’t necessarily have the resources. What’s more, stores are selling out of everything! My brother works for a well-known tech company, and he was generously given a stipend to set up a temporary home office. Even if you’re lucky enough to have the resources, time or motivation, you still might not be able to get what you need. So I’ve been brainstorming on some solutions we can all put to use with a little resourcefulness.
For Starters, The Basics of Good Ergonomics
Most ergonomist would hate my oversimplification, but it really all boils down to adjustment and alignment. In addition to a lot of other great tools such as keyboard trays, there are three big solutions generally accepted as a great combo to support your body properly while you work. These solutions are presented as:
- A properly adjusted desk chair
- An adjustable height desk
- An adjustable monitor arm
Here are some quick “hacks” using items you may already have around the house (or a tiny Manhattan apartment in my case):
This is perhaps the most important one. I don’t even have a desk at home, let alone a nice desk chair and all the peripherals. I now have a parade of chairs that I have been rotating at my “desk” so I can adjust my seat height for the task I’m doing. By switching periodically, I’m avoiding fatigue; 1-2″ makes a big difference! Try a dining chair for focused tasks or a rocking chair while listening to a conference call. I use an Ottoman from the sofa if I’m on a video call and want to avoid looking down at the screen for an extended period of time. Try a rolled up blanket or box under your feet to keep your knees about at hip level, and put a pillow behind you if the chair is too deep.
Adjustable Height Desk
I’m working from my dining room table which I know I’m lucky to have. See above for the parade of chairs. For a makeshift adjustable height desk, grab that online order delivery box that was filled with a lifetime supply of toilet paper and set your computer or monitor in it for elevation. Bonus: You can also use it for a mouse pad. I’ve also used a large plastic storage bin.
Another idea is to try the kitchen counter. You may still need a box to get to the right height, but the counter might be a more stable surface and closer to the right height for you. If you’re relegated to the sofa, try a pillow with a book for a mouse pad. Use a pillow under the laptop to get the monitor height a little closer.
Most importantly, adjust every so often. Set a timer if you need to. Even with these ideas, you’re likely working under less than ideal conditions, so it’s important not to stress one part of your body for an extended period of time. Take a few minutes to stretch between locations. Try cat/cow yoga poses or google “conference chair yoga”. There are a lot of ideas out there!
You can read more on ergonomics at the Mayo Clinic’s website.