Friday October 30, 2020

Working from home? Why you should check the ergonomics of your workspace.



No other time in human history have so many people worked remotely or exclusively from their homes. With social distancing in mind due to the current pandemic, many people are unable to access their prior workspaces and have had to create their own offices and workspaces at home. Whether this is a spare bedroom or the kitchen table, many have had to make do with what they have available. But just because this workspace wasn’t part of your 2020 plans, doesn’t mean that it can’t work well for you moving forward. This is where ergonomics comes in.

To start things off, let’s talk about what ergonomics means. Ergonomics is broadly defined as the study of people in their work environment. To a physical therapist, ergonomics means fitting a person’s workspace to them to prevent any unnecessary stresses on the body. Repeated or prolonged physical stress can lead to musculoskeletal issues. In general, the better your workspace fits to you, the more comfortable you are while working, the more efficient you can be at your job, and the less risk you have of injury. Makes sense, right? Let’s talk about how you can accomplish that.

When working from home, the majority of people are spending time on their computers, whether this is a desktop or laptop. The following recommendations are catered towards computer use, but these principles can be applied to any job which requires sitting for long periods of time.

  1. Support from the bottom-up
    • Feet should be in contact with the ground and either flat or inclined slightly.
    • Knees should be at roughly 90 degrees when looking at the angle between your shin compared to your thigh.
    • The back of your legs should be supported by your chair from your buttocks to just shy of where your knee flexes (about 2”) to allow you to freely move your knee.
    • Chairs that have built-in low back (lumbar) support are great. This can also be accomplished with a small pillow or rolled up towel placed at the curve in your low back just above your hips.
    • Elbows/forearms should rest comfortably on the arm rest of your chair or your desk/table.
  2. Keep it level
    • Your computer screen or monitor should be placed near eye-level about an arms-length away to reduce neck strain.
    • Keep frequently used items below shoulder height and close to you to prevent over-reaching
  3. Move
    • While the above recommendations put your body in a well-supported position, you don’t want to stay there all day. Change body positions at least hourly to keep things loose.
    • Need ideas to do so? Try these:
      • Neck extension, lumbar extension, hip extension, etc.

Have pain or dysfunction that limits you in some way?
Schedule an evaluation with one of our physical therapists to get you back to where you want to be.

Not sure if physical therapy is right for you?
Schedule a free screen with one of our providers who can determine if PT is appropriate or whether another referral is necessary.