With increased social distancing requirements to avoid the risk and spread of COVID-19, many workplaces and employees have been obligated to work from home. This unexpected move leaves employees vulnerable to inadequate work spaces and equipment, as well as poor ergonomics which can increase the potential for musculoskeletal injury.
Lack of routine while working from home, and a decrease in social connection and distraction, lead to decreased movement during the work day. This lack of movement can have negative impacts on our posture and other negative health consequences as well. An increase in contact stress due to unfamiliar, repetitive, movements and rubbing can lead to skin irritation as well.
As best as possible, it is important to be mindful of and adjust your workplace setup to reduce or prevent injury or illness during this shift to work from home.
Tips for Adjusting Ergonomics at Home
- Ensure that your monitor/screen is approximately an arm’s distance away from you to reduce strain on the eyes.
- Use a separate monitor or have your laptop screen raised to have the top of your screen be at the appropriate eye level while seated. Your natural gaze should be slightly downward to avoid neck strain.
- Use a separate keyboard and mouse to increase flexibility in their position. Try to maintain 90-degree angles at your elbows and wrists to avoid strain.
- Adjust your chair as best as possible to support your back, thighs, and be at a comfortable height. Feet should be flat on the floor or resting on an appropriate footrest. If feet are dangling or improperly supported, it can increase lower back strain. If necessary, use folded towels or added cushion for added support.
If you are limited in your ability to adjust your workspace or equipment setup up, it is important to take more frequent breaks to avoid pain and injury.
Tips from Minimizing Ergonomic Hazards
- Take frequent breaks, even 20-30 seconds every 20 to 30 minutes, to get up and stretch can be helpful.
- Increase your movement, even if it is simply to walk to another room and come back.
- Change your gaze and look away from your screen from time to time to give your eyes a break. Dimming your screen brightness helps with eye strain as well.
- Stay hydrated and nourished. Use micro-breaks to drink water and grab healthy snacks to stay alert and energized. Fatigue can decrease awareness of ergonomics and increase poor posture and positioning resulting in strain and potential injury.
For more information, including easy stretches to use during micro-breaks, here is a quick tipsheet from ActSafe Safety Association.