Ergonomics: The Key to Better Health when Working from Home

Ergonomics: The Key to Better Health when Working from Home

Working from home has become more common since the onset of the pandemic. For some, it has become an indefinite reality, more than just the few weeks or months first anticipated. While it can have its benefits, working from home can be a real pain.

If you are working from home, you may be developing and noticing pain, aching, stiffness, or numbness. Your makeshift desk or workstation could be to blame for injuries occurring from muscle tension, repetitive motion, contact stress to body tissue, or sustained postures.

Ergonomics are vital to working safely and efficiently in the home office environment. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ergonomics is the scientific study of people and their working conditions. Here's how you can improve your home office ergonomics and reduce your risk of injury.

Maintain good posture and positioning

  • Worksurface: your work surface should be stable, sturdy, and the correct height to allow you to work with relaxed shoulders, your feet flat on the floor.
  • Chair: find a chair that supports your lower back and with armrests that allow your shoulders to be relaxed and elbows at 90 degrees or less. You shouldn't feel any pressure on the back of your knees. Adjust the height of your chair if possible or use cushions if needed. A footstool or box can be used to support your feet.
  • Monitor & Keyboard: your monitor should be arm's length away with the top of the monitor at or slightly below eye level. You may need to adjust the position of your monitor if you use bifocals to avoid having to flex or extend your neck to see clearly. Place your keyboard so that your wrists are straight and your arms relaxed.
  • Laptop: prolonged use of a laptop can be problematic because it encourages bad posture such as hunching over the laptop or bending your head forward. Consider using an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor to allow you to adjust your posture and positioning.

Make time for breaks

You may be getting fewer steps at home than you would when walking around the office, to your car, to the copier, or to meetings. Take micro-breaks to stretch, breathe, shift eye focus, blink, and reset your posture. Give your muscles a break by performing an activity that uses different muscles. Ideally, don't move from your computer to your cell phone during a break. Cell phones encourage even worse body posture including eye strain, sustained grip, and forward head posture.

Therapy

If you are experiencing persistent pain, aches, or difficulty completing daily tasks, you may benefit from therapeutic assessment and treatment. Physical and occupational therapists are skilled in activity analysis and modification, ergonomic assessment, and the treatment of sprain, strain, tendinitis, and nerve compression. Following an assessment, your therapist may recommend modifications to your working environment to provide immediate relief from pain. They may recommend exercises that strengthen postural muscles that promote good body mechanics and help to decrease strain to the neck and arms and prevent further injury.

Lori Aldrich, MS,OTR/L, CHT, is an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist with more than 30 years of experience. She sees patients at Allied Services Wilkes-Barre Rehab Center.

To start your referral or learn more about therapy programs available call 570.348.1360 or 570.826.3900. Alternatively, find your nearest Outpatient Rehab Center here.