How Can I Make My Home Office Work Best?
Working at home has its many challenges – the cats on your keyboard, the kids with their questions and ideas along with the allure of simple tasks that abound in almost every room.
Then there are those unexpected pains in your neck, back, hips, wrists or hands that may crop up due to improper ergonomics.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is moving often – and making the most of the chair you use.
“Having an adjustable chair – and knowing how to make changes in it – is a critical part of your work setup. When you have it set properly, it can reduce the chance of strains, pain or musculoskeletal issues,” said Jill Richardson, OTR/L, an occupational therapist at Avera St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre. “Many people have adjustable chairs, but might not know how to change things like its height or seat depth.”
The rules of office ergo are the same at home. You don’t want to reach for your work, for one, so make sure you have your laptop, PC or device close enough to avoid strain. Use a footrest, if you have one, and adjust the chair so it can support you best.
“You’ll want to have your feet flat, if you can, or on a rest, but make sure there’s about a fist of space between the back of your lower leg and the front of the seat of your chair,” Richardson said. “You can put the thumb of your fist on the chair’s edge – your leg should be touching your pinkie.”
Footrests can help your back, neck and hips avoid cramps and discomfort. Like a chair, adjustable ones are best. Feet and hips should be at 90-degree angles to avoid strain.
“You chin and head should be parallel to the floor, so if you’re setup at home is not allowing you to hit these marks, you could have some stiffness or sore spots,” said Richardson. “Make sure your wrists are ‘neutral’ as well. They should not be curved because the keyboard is too low or bent back toward the body because it is too high.”
One big advantage to working at home is no one will be walking by your office and see you doing at-your-desk mind-body exercise or other stretches. So make moving around part of your day, too.
“It can be tricky, but try to mix things up. Check email in another room, or walk for a while before you return to your home office,” she said. “Time management is another challenge for working at home, so don’t let your efforts to find the ‘best spot in the house’ get in the way of completing your duties.”
Standing desks at home can be fashioned easily with a counter-top, taller table or other method of lifting your laptop up so you can stand up to work.
“In the workplace, desks that can be used standing or sitting are more common, and at home you can create a sitting work site as well as one that lets you do some of your tasks while standing up,” Richardson said. “The only audience you have is your family or pets, so try things out – even in the process of trial and error, you’ll be moving, and that can help you feel less stiff or get soreness out.”
Here are other tips Richardson suggests:
- Use a desk or table at home that is 28-30 inches in height. If possible, avoid desks/surfaces that are more than 2 inches thick.
- Allow for leg-room – 24 inches wide for knees and about 18 inches deep, at least.
- Keep your monitor or work screen about 18-20 inches from you.