From solopreneurs to Fortune 500 companies, technology has made telecommuting a reality for a wide slice of the economy. Laptops with embedded cameras make conferencing into the sales meeting in Toledo from a conference in Timbuktu a breeze. And with smartphones and tablets, even employees who don’t regularly remote working are finding themselves working more and more from home, purely out of convenience or need.
But just because remote working doesn’t happen at headquarters, doesn’t mean the company still isn’t on the hook for any ergonomic injuries employees suffer while on the job. That puts a big responsibility on employers to ensure their employees are well-versed in ergonomic best practices, and well-equipped to handle the demands of the workplace. Whether you work from home or on the road, or you’re an employer with many remote workers to manage, here are a few ways to do just that.
1. Become Versed in Home Ergonomics
In many ways, setting up an ergonomic home office is just like setting one up in the office. You’ll want to purchase a chair that provides ample lumbar and arm support. Also, keep it at such a height that the soles of your feet fall flat on the ground. Desks need not be fancy. Just as long as they, too, are at the right height. And that they provide enough room for your knees and legs to move around. Your hands should also float naturally above your keyboard without putting strain on your wrists and arms. Additionally, your screen should be at such a height that you keep your neck in a neutral position throughout the day.
(Note: Employers should pay for this equipment. It’s in their best interest anyway to prevent workers compensation claims. But if they don’t, all home office furnishings should be tax deductible, so be sure to ask your accountant).
Perhaps the most important piece of equipment for the remote worker is a hands-free headset, which will allow you to participate in important work conference calls without straining to hold a phone while also taking notes on your keyboard. This will greatly reduce your chances of straining your neck.
Employers that really care about ergonomics will provide manuals or video guides for setting up an ergonomic home office. If they have an ergonomist on the payroll, it also makes sense to have you send a video or photos of your office for a complete reevaluation. Weekly or monthly ergonomic check-ins can also be a great way to ensure the quality of a remote ergonomic setup remains high.
2. Learn How to Work Ergonomically From Anywhere
Once you’ve got the home office in order, it’s time to get setup to work from just about anywhere, whether that’s the back of the car as you take a break from driving around your sales region or 30,000 feet in the air as you work from an airplane. Working on the go is easier than ever with mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. These devices increasingly rely on cloud storage that can be accessed anywhere you have internet connection. However, with their tiny keyboards, these devices put excessive strain on wrists and fingers, as they must be tight and precise in their movements. Flat, attached screens also make it next to impossible to position mobile device keyboards at an angle that’s also ideal for necks and eyes, often leading to hunching that puts strain on your neck and back.
All of this, however, is easily fixed with ergonomic peripherals you can take with you on-the-go. A mobile ergonomic keyboard, for example, will provide you with the same comfort of an ergonomic keyboard you’d place on a desktop, while still being light and slim enough to slip into a laptop bag without adding too much weight. Pair with an ergonomic mouse and a laptop and tablet stand to bring the screen up to the right height, and you’ll have a mobile ergonomic workspace for wherever you go.
3. Gather a Telecommuting Support Team
When you’re working from anywhere, it’s still important to stretch, stretch, streeeetch, and to move around as much as you can. That can be easier said than done if you work on your own. It’s easy to get too focused on what you’re doing without stopping for a break.
To prevent too much sedentary activity, consider linking up with other remote workers or friends to take regular breaks together. This could mean something like arranging a walking lunch. Or hosting a Skype conference every several hours where you can do a quick round of yoga.
Alternatively, if you’re stuck somewhere without a buddy, consider giving any one of these handy stretches a try. From the car to the airplane, they can be done just about anywhere, so there’s no excuse!
4. Embrace the Principles of Mobile Ergonomics
Overall, when you work remotely, it’s important to embrace the principles of mobile ergonomics. Every piece of equipment you buy and every new behavior you incorporate into your work routine should follow the Mobile Ergonomic PACT:
What does this mean exactly? You should always be able to fold up your workspace and take it with you, wherever you decide to work from on any given day. However, just because it’s portable, that workspace shouldn’t sacrifice comfort. Furthermore, it should still fully adjust to your body, while offering full compatibility with any of the new equipment you encounter on the road. And of course, you should be able to trust your equipment to always get the job done for you, wherever you are.
With the rise of excellent remote technology, telecommuting is fast becoming a popular option for all kinds of workers and employers. But to really do it right, there are a number of ergonomic issues to consider. With just a few preventative measures, employees can work happily and comfortably from wherever they are, and employers can reap the benefits. What will you do to increase your home ergonomics today?
Did you enjoy this article? Check back next week for ergonomic tips that are just right for your call center workforce.