Work-from-Home Ergonomic Tips

Are you wary about investing in a chair and desk? Maybe you’re thinking you’ll just suck it up for now until you go back into the office? According to Dr. Steach, who is backed up endless research and studies, there is a return of $17.80 for every $1 invested on ergonomics. Think of your body as your best investment and for employers – think of this as an investment in your staff.

Aura recently hosted an economics webinar in partnership with HermanMiller with Dr. Melissa Steach, a certified ergonomist, a Workplace Wellbeing Leader, and best-selling author to give us the rundown on a proper ergonomic setup when working from home.

Dr. Steach has had over 3500 one on one ergonomic assessments and through her years of experience, has given us tips from head to toe – literally. The webinar included a series of questions all related to proper posture and positioning when working from home- because let’s be honest, this pandemic came out of nowhere and some of us had less than a week to prepare a makeshift home “office”.

What is the proper seating position? How can I maintain a proper posture?

Before we dive into the details, it is important to note that unless you’ve been practicing perfect posture over a period of time, you will not be able to jump into full-time proper positioning. It takes time for your body to adjust to a new way of functioning – respect your body and listen to it carefully.

So what is the correct form?

  •       Feet flat on the floor
  •       Knees at a 90-degree angle
  •       Elbows at a 90-degree angle (or slightly lower)
  •       Wrists straight
  •       Eyes looking straight ahead
  •       Shoulders pulled back

It is crucial that you scoot all the way to the back of your chair and roll your shoulders back.

*tip: place a piece of tape on the back of your shoulders leading to your back to remind you to keep your shoulders high.

What happens over time is that we begin to slouch over. Whether it’s to look at our phones, laptops, cooking over the stove, reading and etc. we’ve naturally become accustomed to looking down and our shoulders always follow. Overtime this undoubtedly causes fatigue.

As well, minimize the amount of twisting and moving around you’re doing while sitting and focusing on a task. Sounds strange because we’re told to take constant breaks during out workday, right? Hear us out.

A constant moving back and forth, such as grabbing pens and reaching around for your phone, will tire and fatigue your spine in a negative way. Instead, try setting a timer where for 25 minutes you do straight focus work with proper posture and then take a few minutes after to stand up and move around. This is called the Pomodoro Method and is proven to be effective, efficient and save you time.  


What about my screen? How if I work off of a laptop?

The most important thing here is that your eyes look straight ahead and not looking down. Compare this to when driving a car – if something catches your eye to the left, without realizing, you will steer your car to the left. If you spend an entire workday looking down at your screen, your shoulders will follow, and we know it is critical that your shoulders and neck remain rolled back.

Your screen should be extended approximately arm distance away from you. This not only protects your eyes but also helps your arms and wrists maintain proper positioning. The larger the screen, the further the distance, is the rule of thumb. With this, you can feel your way through- see what feels right for your body.

If you’re working full time off of a laptop, we would recommend investing in a laptop stand, keyboard and mouse sooner rather than later. This way, your arms and elbows can remain at 90-degrees with the keyboard and mouse while your laptop can be perched on the laptop stand allowing your vision to remain straight ahead.

Where should I position my hands and arms?

Your work surface can act as an armrest as long as your shoulders are aligned, and your wrists are neutrally positioned. What you want to avoid is pressure against your forearms. Even the smallest sustained pressure can slow down your blood flow and over time can cause nerve damage.

Armrests are a great way to get into the routine of having proper positioning. You want to rest your arms just slightly, however, and not rely on armrests. Most of us have the habit of leaning onto our elbows when relying on armrests and that could be a damaging habit.

 

I have no choice but to rely on my dining table/barstool/couch. How can I ensure to use it in a way that is as ergonomic as possible?

When working off the kitchen counter and barstool, it’s important to have something under your feet to create stability so they don’t dangle. Kitchen counters are generally much higher than a regular desk. A pile of books, a footstool, or even a box are make-shift ways to provide a platform to keep your feet flat and knees at 90-degrees.

We acknowledge that working off the sofa is quite comfortable and can even feel fine for a while. However, looking down at your laptop is what would cause you damage over time. Your head will eventually round your spine down and bring your shoulders with them. Imagine buying a pair of shoes that are too small – you can wear them for a couple of hours, but at the end of the day you find you’re grumpy, tired, and not thinking as clearly. When you finally take those shoes off you feel a sudden rush of relief. The same goes for your body.

*tip: treat the sofa as your fun place to work at random times, but then go back to your baseline set-up.  

What about a sit-stand desk?

Sit-stand desks are amazing and are all the rage for every reason. When working off a sit-stand desk, make sure your eyes are straight ahead, spine in a natural and neutral S-curve with your elbows at 90-degrees.

Anti-fatigue mats almost always are referenced after a sit-stand desk and Dr. Steach states that they are not needed. She continues to mention that if you feel you need an anti-fatigue mat, you are standing for too long. The same goes for vice versa: if you feel pain when sitting, you are sitting for too long.

All research will tell you that our bodies are meant to move. Make sure you are taking proper breaks throughout the day to stretch and move.

Set-up hacks for home that anyone could do?

Keep a power source close to you so that it is one less thing to be aware of while you are working, allowing you to have full focus on your tasks.

If you cannot close your door or can’t help but catch yourself staring at your TV throughout the day, readjust your workstation so that you have your back turned the other way. What you can’t see can’t hurt you, right?

We need twice as much light when working to support our eyes and keep them from straining. Ensure you have the right light sources during your workday.

If you miss the ambient of noise, and your screaming kids (if you have a family) or piercing silence (if you live alone), Dr. Steach suggests tuning into Coffitivity.com; a website with recordings of coffeeshop noise. The ambient noise, (it is critical there are no words, that is why listening to music is ineffective), helps us focus whereas loud distracting sounds are destructive to our focus.

What else is important?

Movement cannot be stressed enough. Your body wants to move every 45 minutes. Your mind can only focus for 55 minutes on average anyway, so why are you still glued to your desk after several hours?

Research will show that sometimes as simple as 20-30 seconds of micro-movement will over time mitigate the damage done by sitting or standing still for too long. Dr. Steach encourages doing a simple movement with some resistance such as a push-up or squat.

Finally, look around. Shift your eye gaze around every once in a while, to release the strain from staring at your screen all day.

 If you are interested in educating your team, book a complimentary ergonomics webinar with our team today.