Ergonomics for Work From Home

Ergonomic work from home workstation

Ergonomics for Work From Home

How’s work from home going for you? Are you noticing some new aches and pains that you never had while working in your office? Is sitting at the kitchen table or on a wooden stool starting to cramp your style? And your neck and back?

Have you heard of ergonomics?

Ergonomics was probably not part of the conversation with your home decorator or the guy at Ikea when you did it yourself. Chances are someone at your old office considered your ergonomic set-up when they purchased your desk, chair, keyboard, mouse pads, monitor and other equipment you use every day.

Now that you work from home — and may continue to through the spring and beyond — you should consider a few things.
The equipment you use, how you use it, and how you treat your body throughout a workday affect the way your body is going to feel at the end of the day. A professional ergonomic assessment or just a few tweaks can save you from short-term pain or even long-term complications.

 

What is Ergonomics?

An ergonomic evaluation of your remote workplace is a detailed assessment of your equipment and how it fits you. Traditionally, ergonomics was the domain of engineers who designed equipment to fit the average user and also adjust to larger and smaller people too.

A common school of thought was that all workplace repetitive stress injuries were caused by the equipment. As a result, all of the solutions were focused on installing better tools.

Physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other movement specialists had different ideas about that. These specialists began evaluating ergonomics because they were the ones who were treating the people with workplace injuries.

Ergonomics isn’t only about the user interface, it’s also about the user.

The way you work at your workstation increases or reduces your chance of getting injured at work. A workstation can be a computer on a desk, a shipping room at a warehouse, an assembly line, or a postal truck. The USPS even has an ergonomics section in their employee manual and full-time ergonomic specialists who work to reduce injury risks with equipment improvement initiatives and employee training.

 

The Ergonomic Desk Chair

If you work on a computer at home most of the day, you probably sit a lot. You better have a decent chair and your ergonomic chair should have all of the following features:

  • 5 caster wheels
  • Ability to rotate
  • Pneumatic lift/lower
  • A comfortable seat – consider mesh for ventilation
  • 2 adjustable arms
  • A stiff backrest with the option to release or soften the pressure to allow moderate recline; tension adjustment is an optional feature
  • Optional – headrest

It’s important to be able to adjust the ergonomic chair to a comfortable functional position, to be able to rest your arms, and for your feet to reach the floor. So, if you are not tall enough for your legs to reach the floor with your arms rested at approximately a 90-degree elbow angle, you should use a foot rest or small stool under your feet.

 

Sitting Posture

When you’re working at a computer, you want to achieve open angles at your joints to prevent joint compression and allow for optimal blood flow and nerve conduction. An ideal seated position includes:

  • Feet flat on the floor or foot rest
  • Knees and hips both at approximately a 100-degree angle
  • Back against the lumbar rest of the chair with a slight, supported arch
  • Shoulders over or slightly behind hips
  • Wrists at approximate height of elbows
  • Wrists in neutral position, not bent up or down
  • Ears over or slightly in front of shoulders

The biggest tendencies, the conditions they cause and the most common solutions are:

Position Condition Equipment Common Recommended Exercises
Extended Wrist Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Wrist Pads for Keyboard and Mouse Wrist Flexor Stretch
Forward Head Posture Neck Pain, Arm Pain, Headaches Glasses, Chair headrest Chin Tucks
Rounded shoulders Shoulder Pain, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Neck/Upper Back Pain Chair Arm Rests Rows, Shoulder Blade Pinches
Slumped Sitting Low Back Pain, Sciatica Lumbar Support in Chair Standing Back Bends, Hamstring/ Quad/Hip Flexor Stretches
Extended wrists at your work from home office setup can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

Extended Wrists    Forward head posture while working from home can cause neck pain and headaches. Try an ergonomic chair.Forward Head Posture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you work at a computer and experience any of the above conditions, a physical therapist can probably help you. Through the wonders of modern technology, a PT can remotely do a workstation assessment of your current working conditions. They can observe you right at your work from home workstation. Then they will recommend appropriate equipment improvements, behavioral changes, exercises and other treatment modalities to relieve your symptoms. If you can work pain free, you will be more efficient, more productive, and work will be more enjoyable.

Schedule a Telehealth Ergonomic Assessment or TelaPT Appointment today.

Daniel Seidler is the author of the ergonomic guidebook, Why Does Working @ My Computer Hurt So Much?

 

Daniel Seidler, PT, MS
dan@bettertelept.com

Daniel has had the pleasure of being a Physical Therapist since graduating from Columbia University in 1996. He's the former owner of WSPT in the Bronx, NY. Since 2018, Telehealth PT has been his passion and his mission. Throughout his career, Daniel has thrived as a healthcare innovator, entrepreneur, and executive. Daniel provides educational programming to PT students, Physical Therapists and Physician Assistants on the basics and nuances of TelePT. He also continues to treat patients via Telehealth. Daniel is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Telemedicine Association, he is an Advisory Board Member of the Mercy College Physical Therapy program and a member of the Pace University Lubin Design Thinking Certificate Program. He also loves spending time with his family, running in Prospect Park and doing the NY Times Sunday Crossword.