How to Make Your Home Office Ergonomic
Whether you work in your pajamas or force yourself into regular office attire, there are many advantages to working from home. Who, after all, wouldn’t love a little more flexibility in their schedule, or a commute that consists of shuffling down the hall to the study? Still, despite stereotypes that say otherwise, telecommuters work just as hard as their in-office counterparts, often on equipment that’s outdated or ill-suited for their bodies. This is all the more true if you’re self-employed, as you may not have the budget or the immediate financial incentive to enact an ergonomic office renovation. This puts remote workers at a high risk for headaches, eyestrain, neck, back and wrist pain, and RSIs (Repetitive Stress Injuries) over both the short and long term. And hey, if this leads you away from the desk to your couch to watch Magnum PI reruns, who could blame you?
But it doesn’t have to be this way. With just a few simple measures and small investments, creating an ergonomic office is easier than you think. Let’s take a look at a few good ways on how to make your home office ergonomic.
1. Know What to Look for in a Good Chair
Sitting all day can take a tremendous toll on your musculoskeletal system, from your neck down to your knees. We suggest using the following features as a guide for finding an office chair that fits your body.
- Seat Height: With the right chair, you’ll be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your thighs parallel to your desk. A simple pneumatic lever will do the trick.
- Backrest: The ideal chair will have a backrest that’s 12 to 19 inches wide. The height and forward and back angles should be fully adjustable.
- Seat Width and Depth: Of course, the seat should be wide enough to accommodate you without strain, and there should be enough distance from the front to the back of the seat to allow for 2 to 4 inches of space between your knees and the chair. Proper depth will prevent leg and back strain, and will also promote circulation.
- Lumbar Support: To support your lower back and align your spine, look for a chair with adjustable lumbar support that fits the inward curve of your lower back.
- Legs: Go for a chair with wheels so you can easily move across your workspace without sudden jagged movements.
2. Find or Make an Ergonomic Desk
An ergonomic desk will also adjust to your body, while providing more than enough space to move around.
- Height: Finding the proper desk height is crucial for preventing back, neck, shoulder and wrist pain during those long hours typing. You’ll know you’ve hit the sweet spot when your hands rest flat on the desk when you bend your elbows 90 degrees.
- Shape: Consider buying an L- or U-shaped desk so you can move fluidly through a range of tasks without cramping your materials or body into small spaces.
- Stand Up Desk: Standing at your desk will keep circulation flowing throughout your body, forcing your muscles to work throughout the day. If you’ve got the space, try incorporating both a sitting and a second stand up desk into your office so you can easily move between the two. Or, go for an adjustable desk or a treadmill desk to save space and keep you moving.
3. Outfit Your Workspace With Ergonomic Accessories
Once you’ve got your desk in order, it’s time to outfit your desktop with just a few ergonomic accessories that don’t cost much but will go a long way towards safeguarding your health long term.
- Laptop and Tablet Stands: In order to prevent eye and neck strain, it’s important to place your monitor or screen 20 to 40 inches away from you, and to angle it so that your neck remains in a neutral position. That’s pretty much impossible to do without a laptop or tablet stand, which will adjust the screen of your device to fit your body’s natural positions.
- Split Keyboards and Ergonomic Mice: Most normal keyboards force your wrists and hands into awkward, unnatural positions that lead to discomfort in the short term and RSIs in the long term. This is all the more true for laptops thanks to their tiny keys and cramped layout. Ergonomic keyboards are an easy fix for this, as they allow you to adjust the keyboard to fit your natural wrist angles and to float your hands over the keyboard. Likewise, ergonomic mice have much the same effect, supporting your wrist’s most natural position.
- Headsets: If you do a lot of talking on the phone, it’s high time you got yourself a headset so that you can keep your hands free and talk without craning your neck. This will help improve your posture and your productivity by default.
It may seem overwhelming at first, but with a few simple measures, you can fit your office to your body, rather than trying to fit your body to your office. Doing so will be well worth the (fully tax deductible) investment, protecting your health and fostering productivity for years to come. So turn your home office ergonomic, and enjoy!