By Rachel Daof
I am writing this in the midst of our stay-at-home mandate and thinking about all of you. I hope you are all staying at home safely and adjusting to your temporary lifestyle. The transition to working at home can be tough and it poses new challenges on your body. A lot of us don’t have a desk set up as nicely at home as we do in the office, so I wanted to talk to you about attempting to improve your at home ergonomic situation. Hopefully you can bring some of these tips back to your office once we can slowly integrate ourselves back into the economy.
When we’re talking about desk spaces, putting yourself in awkward positions for a prolonged period of time (about 2 hours of exposure) will start to put tissues at risk for injury. When you’re working at your desk you want to set it up to limit awkward positions and the time spent in those positions. While it’s tempting to work on the couch, your body will thank you when implementing a few ergonomic tips, and this can also continue when you get back into the office.
- Your head:
- Generally speaking, your monitor should be about arms length in front of you. The top of the monitor should meet your eyes or slightly below it.
- Tips: When using multiple monitors consider moving your body further away from the screen. You will need to maximize your field of vision to decrease neck rotation. The larger the monitor(s) the farther away you have to sit. Also, your primary monitor should be the one that is in front of your dominant eye.
- Your hands, wrists, and forearms should generally be straight and parallel to the floor while keeping elbows close to the body at around 90-120 degrees.
- Spine to thigh angle should be 90-110 degrees with your low back supported with lumbar support.
- Your thighs should be fully supported on the chair leaving just a couple of inches between the end of your chair and the back of your knees. The optimal chair should have a “waterfall” design so it does not press into the back of your knees.
- Your feet should be placed flat on the floor while keeping your thighs parallel to the floor.
- Foot rests are good for shorter individuals and promotes sitting back in the chair to effectively utilize lumbar support. Your feet should be flat on the floor bringing your thighs parallel to the floor.
Here are some before and after pictures of my set-up at home.
You can see in this first picture that my neck can be a bit strained in this position and my shoulders would have a tendency to shrug up against my ears because my desk is so high. Furthermore, my chair is a bit too large for me so I can’t utilize the backrest and support my lumbar spine. If I held this position for a long time I can easily fall into excess lumbar extension or flexion causing my back to hurt. My feet are also tucked under the chair because I am short and cannot reach the floor, and this can contribute to me not using the backrest.
The ergonomic setup in the second picture is much better. I used a laptop stand to elevate my monitor so my neck is not cranked into flexion. I also put a pillow on my back so it can give me something to lean on to support my low back.
Things that I would further improve:
As you can tell in the second picture my feet are hovered in the air. Because I’m short, I need a footrest to make my ergonomic setup more comfortable. Also, my arms are not completely parallel to the floor. If my chair could elevate a bit higher it’d be more comfortable for me, and I’d be less prone to shrugging my shoulders contributing to neck tension. In all, I just need a better chair that fits my body. Lastly, my desk is faced towards the window. As much as I love this set up, it could lead to those with poor vision to lean forward to look at the screen. This too can contribute to neck tension. The contrast between the light behind my monitor can make it difficult for some people to see. Ultimately this can contribute to posture issues.
The above guidelines go over a basic upright posture to assume while working a desk job. However, one should take frequent “ergo breaks.” This means that although the above minimizes risk of injury, it does not mean that you should assume this static posture for a whole 8 hour day. Here are a few suggestions to break up static postures while sitting for prolonged times:
- Get up! I generally like to take a standing break for 10 minutes for every hour spent sitting.
If you’re currently working at home and are on your computer often, attempt following these simple guidelines to take the load off your body. Make sure that you aren’t sitting for hours straight, and stretch out those muscles! It feels great!
Are you curious about more individualized help? We are available via digital health and can check out your setup via Zoom!
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