There has been a steady rise in remote and home-office work. This has led to companies and businesses reevaluating home office working conditions – and ergonomics play a big role. Ergonomics is an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely. In simplified terms, it is fitting the task to the individual.
Companies should ask remote workers to evaluate their own working conditions and workstations in their own home. Ideally, employees should be situated in a workstation that allows for a neutral spine position. This does not necessarily mean the spine is in a straight up and down position, as the spine has natural curvature. So how would someone tell if an individual’s spine is in a neutral position for their workplace? A good way to know if it is NOT in a neutral position, is if they are standing or sitting and the position does not feel natural or the back muscles seem very tight even after a short amount of time in that position.
Provide Proper Equipment
The equipment an individual uses can affect their home office ergonomics. For example, some people might not have a traditional desk; they may be using a kitchen tabletop or a countertop area. When you are seated at a nontraditional workspace location you may be forced to work in a non-neutral spine position. This poor spinal positioning and even head, hand and elbow positioning, can lead to discomfort in the neck and shoulders, back, hands and wrists, as well as headaches and eyestrain.
The goal is to fit the task to the individual, so working from home may require some investments or modifications. Purchasing items like raised computer monitor stands for people typing at a countertop area so they can maintain a neutral spine position may be required. Perhaps there is an investment needed to get a sit-stand desk which enables the employee to lower and raise the desk to a proper working height and avoid fatigue. Perhaps an adjustable monitor for proper working angle would be needed. Typically, a computer monitor should be slightly below eye level and when you look at the middle of the screen your eyes should be looking slightly down. The monitor should be kept approximately an arm’s length away. Screen tilt is typically between 10 and 20 degrees although this can vary depending upon if the individual has bifocals or other health-related matters.
For individuals that sit at their home office location most of the day, a proper chair is important. A proper backrest for chairs can make a tremendous difference, as they encourage neutral spinal alignment. A pillow or towel can be used to help aid neutral spinal alignment if a proper chair is not available. Even the way an individual sits can affect the way they feel at the end of a shift. An individual’s feet should be firmly placed on the ground, flat shoe types are best able to accomplish this. If a proper office chair is not available and a person is using a non-adjusting chair – like a kitchen table chair, for example – things like step stools or a seat cushion can aid in making the seating position more ergonomic.
It is important to analyze the home office working conditions and equipment used to make sure an employee has the best ergonomic office environment possible to reduce strain and avoid injury.
RELATED READING: To learn the important early warning signs of ergonomic injuries and ways to reduce the risk, read “The Importance of Ergonomics.”
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