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Ergonomically Working From Home: Thriving While Physical Distancing

Woman working from home with daughter

Most people don’t have the same equipment at home that they have in the office. That wasn’t a problem unitl the largest working-from-home experiment in history

Thousands of people across the world are already staying away from their workplaces due to coronavirus, many working remotely for the first time. So grab your laptop and get to work right?

Not so fast. Unless you regularly work from home, chances are you aren’t prepared.

Ergonomically Working From Home: Be Prepared for Coronavirus

Sure, you can do everything from your laptop while sitting on the wooden chair at your kitchen table. But you can’t do it without putting yourself at risk.

One of the easiest and most important things you can do is to take your keyboard and mouse home from the office with you. Hunched forward with shrugged shoulders, a bent neck, and angled wrists – hardly anyone can use a laptop without a severely restricted posture. It might even be how you are sitting right now.  

Do this for a day or two and you’ll probably be fine. But British workers are already being told to prepare for three months of working at home. An external keyboard and mouse allows you to sit upright with the shoulders squared, in turn helping you keep a neutral spine. 

Position the keyboard and mouse in the primary work zone – the area you can access comfortably without bending or reaching.

Primary and secondary reach zones for working at home

Arguably the biggest benefit of this is then having the ability to raise your laptop, either with a stand or even just on top of some books. This accomplishes two ergonomic goals; your eyes will no longer be too close to the screen and your neck won’t have to remain tilted.

Position the top of your monitor just below eye level at about one arm’s length away, protecting you from ocular discomfort and neck and upper back pain at the same time. 

Also, watch the weight of your laptop bag when you’re carrying it around. Anything over 20 lbs. is risky! Consider using a backpack instead.

How to Be Ergonomic When Working At Home

If you already have a home office or workstation, great. We’d still recommend getting a remote ergonomic assessment, especially if you are going to be working from home for the long haul. The beauty of this is it’s quick, easy, effective, and doesn’t put anyone at risk of exposure to COVID-19. 

We also have a free workstation assessment app to help you get started, as well as a workstation setup checklist

The main things to aim for are having proper working height for your upper limbs and support for a neutral spine. Like most people, you probably don’t have a height-adjustable desk at home – and that’s okay. But if you can adjust your chair to bring your elbow height in line with the work surface, you’re golden, at least in that regard.

Now, you need to ensure your feet are still comfortably flat on the floor. In case they aren’t, find something to put under them – a small stool, a laptop bag, etc. – to keep them supported. 

Proper workstation set up for working at home

If your chair is the wrong size, and you have to work while hunching, shrugging, or slouching, take frequent breaks to get up and stretch. Alternating work areas provides some relief, too.

For a chair without lumbar support, or even if it’s just too large, use a portable back support, a pillow, or a rolled up towel to take the load off and keep your spine more neutral. 

Protect Yourself and Others From Coronavirus

Whether or not you are actually working from home, there are certain steps you should be taking to protect yourself from COVID-19 and do your part in preventing its spread: 

  1. Do not come into work if you have any symptoms. 

Symptoms are similar to the common cold: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. COVID-19 can also cause diarrhea, sore throat and runny nose, but these are less common.

You should also stay home if you are taking care of someone who is sick or has recently visited a coronavirus hotspot, or if you’ve recently visited one of these places yourself. 

  1. Wash hands regularly with soap for 20 seconds and/or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.

Do this upon returning to the office, after having meetings, and when visiting clients.

  1. No handshaking.
  2. When possible, use closed hands or elbows to open doors or turn light switches.
  3. Cough or sneeze into tissues. Use your elbow or shoulder only if you don’t have tissues.
  4. Use disinfectant wipes on your workstation, light switches, and door handles at the beginning and end of the day, or whenever you leave/return to the office.
  5. Be prepared to work from home.

COVID-19 has already impacted most of us. It’s hitting the economy, disrupting travel, and causing food and goods shortages. We’ll get through it, but we need to be ready. 

Stay healthy and stay safe!

EWI Works offers many services that can improve your quality of life. We have developed several cost-effective remote services to help you transition to remote work. Find out more about our Online Training, Services, and Resources. 

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