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Working from home: Ergonomics to maintain productivity and reduce injuries

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Are you juggling work tasks from the sofa or the kitchen table? If so, you’re not alone; the COVID-19 pandemic changed work life for millions of us. What began as a brief relocation now stretches to a year, or more, for many. If you miss the comfort and accessibility of a well-designed workstation, maybe it’s time to add a revamp to your to-do list. Understanding ergonomics is a great place to start.

Ergonomics is the science of designing a space for efficiency, comfort and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders caused by poor posture and repetitive motion. Ergonomically designed workspaces are fit to an individual, and there are basic ergonomic principles you can follow to create or improve your new office space.  

Choose suitable space

Beds and sofas are great places to relax, but not to work. Boost your productivity by designing a work area that’s right for your body and your brain.

  • ● Make sure the height of your desk supports your forearms with elbows bent 90˚ and wrists straight.
  • ● Keep tools you use often, such as your keyboard and mouse, within easy reach when your elbows are at your side.
  • ● Lighting should include task lighting for reading printed materials and diffused light to reduce glare on the computer screen.

Have a seat

Ergonomics is about fitting the space to you. The right chair will help ensure proper posture and help you avoid back, neck and shoulder strain. Sit with a straight back, your elbows at a right angle and your wrists straight. Choose a sturdy but comfortable chair that:

  • ● Adjusts so that your feet rest flat on the floor and your knees are the same height as or lower than your hips and your forearms
  • ● Supports your lower and mid-back and allows you to sit upright and close the gaps between your back and the chair
  • ● Moves easily on the flooring in your space

Stability or exercise ball chairs are not a replacement for an ergonomic office chair. They lack lower back support and stability, and over time may increase aches and pain.

Even with a perfect chair, stretch breaks are essential. Aim to stand, move or stretch every 30 minutes.

Stretch breaks also help combat eye strain. Experts recommend taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes to focus on an object 20 feet away from your computer screen.

Accessorize

The right accessories – some no-cost or low-cost – can improve how well your space works for you. 

  • ● Add an external keyboard to your laptop that allows you to adjust your laptop screen to align with your eyes’ height.
  • ● Invest in a footrest or repurpose a sturdy box if your feet don’t rest flat on the floor.
  • ● Improve the ergonomics of an ordinary chair by adding a seat cushion or lumbar pillow. 

Check out more Roper St. Francis Healthcare tips to keep your body and mind healthy.

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