Go Home to Ergonomics Comfort: Culprits and Solutions
Last week, we shone a light on an often ignored issue: Ergonomics in the home environment. It’s not something we tend to think about much. Most likely because we don’t have ergonomists stored in our porch closets, waiting for us to throw open the doors so they can hand us a checklist. But all of that couch sitting, texting, and video game playing can’t be comfortable or good in the long run. Putting our bodies in danger as we repeat those same motions throughout the workday. If a motion is considered repetitive from 9 to 5, it is all the more so when repeated yet again from 5 to to 12.
There was so much to cover in last week’s home ergonomics post, we decided to break it up into a two-parter. Today we’ll conclude our series with these final culprits and solutions.
The Culprit: The Kitchen
That’s right, we’re putting the entire kitchen on trial here! That room full of ergonomic hazards (good for resale value, however!). Standing up for long periods of time to bake or cook may be better than sitting! But without the proper support, doing so can create fatigue in the legs and feet. Counters that are either too high or too low for your body can cause similar problems as desks that aren’t in the proper position. This is because you’ll strain your muscles and tendons as you chop and mix. All the more so as you do so repetitively, putting you at further risk for developing a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). The height issue can also lead to hunching.
Similarly, utensils that are stored out of reach can be a huge hazard — we’re looking at you, person who falls on the shorter end of the height spectrum! …as you perch on the edge of a slick granite counter while you struggle to reach that mixing bowl on the top shelf. Tall fridges can present similar problems!
The Ergonomic Solution
There are a number of solutions to the problem that is the kitchen. First, consider purchasing an anti-fatigue mat just like the one you would place beneath a standing desk. Originally designed for kitchen and factory workers, anti-fatigue mats cushion your feet and joints. This is so that you can stand for longer without feeling those aches and pains.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many solutions to help a tall person raise a counter to prevent hunching. Other than maybe stacking chopping boards onto other items also stacked on the counter. The caveat here is that making these stacks stable is key. Shorter people are in a little bit more luck, as the simple addition of a step stool can put the counter at the right height. And while we would always recommend placing implements at a more reachable level in the first place, in crowded kitchens a nice, stable, solid step stool, can be a life saver.
As for all of that chopping, keep in mind that taking breaks is just as important in the kitchen. Additionally, you can save your muscles a lot of pain if you splurge for expensive knives that you keep nice and sharp. Now you won’t have to apply extra pressure or saw endlessly at your meat and veggies.
The Culprit: The Garden
If many an English novel are to be believed, the garden is a place of relaxation and rejuvenation. Gardening itself is the perfect cure for those seeking a satisfying form of exercise and a nice dose of fresh air. It’s true! Gardening comes with all of these benefits. But if your muscles haven’t been trained up, that exercise so toted in promoting gardening can be quite a strain! All the more so due to the repetitive and often fine nature of the movements required. Digging in particular can strain your wrists and elbows, and squatting can strain your knees. We’re not even going to start with all of the stress put on the back when you move a heavy bag of soil. After a weekend of heavy gardening, you’ll be lucky to be able to type without pain on Monday morning!
Just like any form of exercise, gardening necessitates training. If, for example, you know that you’re going to have a big gardening session this weekend: Start stretching and exercising throughout the week to get your muscles into form. Concentrate not only on your back and your limbs, but also on your hamstrings. Hamstrings have a direct connection to back pain. Take plenty of breaks throughout your gardening session, and try to stay in a kneeling position for the bulk of time. This is better for the back. A knee pad can make doing so a little bit more comfortable.
And of course, just as in the kitchen, keep your tools within reach in the shed. Now you don’t have to strain to grab them. With these tips, you’ll be able to focus on your tulip buds on the weekend. Go ahead, type your way through your work week without any conflict of interest.
The Culprit: Overhead Lighting
When it comes to lighting our homes, there’s one thing most of us tend to think about: energy efficiency, and keeping those lighting costs low. But while this is certainly understandable, it’s just as important to consider exactly what kind of lighting we purchase. Also consider how we place them in the home in order to prevent the development of eye strain. You might love the look of a soft, yellow, energy efficient incandescent bulb, but that might not be bright enough when you have a big reading session in mind. However, if you plan on reading in bed, an ultra-bright fluorescent or set of LED bulbs can be bright enough to throw off your Circadian rhythms, thereby interrupting your sleep. What to do?
As with all ergonomics, it’s important to take a look into how you’re using your space. As with the example above, if you spend a lot of time reading in bed, you might want to opt for a mix of lighting. Perhaps a soft, yellow incandescent bulb by your bed, a dimmable overhead light? Maybe a reading light that you can pin right onto your book. In the kitchen, under cabinet-LED lighting will be bright and focused? So that you can maintain a clear line of sight on the produce you’re chopping without straining your eyes. In your home office, where you sit down to pay your bills, overhead lighting combined with task lighting can be the perfect combination. The best idea is to mix and match, based on each room’s function.
In Short: Ergonomic Solutions For The Home
Ergonomics is not something we often consider in the home. But given how much time we spend there, it definitely should be. In fact, as the home is often a place where we let down our guard. It is all the more important that we think carefully about how we move around it. Not only will this help increase comfort in the home overall, but it will also ensure that when you return to the office each weekday morning, your body will be in top form and ready to go, rather than aching from repetitive injuries you’ve further exasperated during your time away.
What ergonomic troubles do you encounter most in your home, and how does it affect your performance in the office? Let us know in the blog comments.