Ergonomics is commonly associated only with office-based settings. Increasingly, as more of us work remotely, the importance of good ergonomics when working from home is more and more apparent.
At the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, many thousands of employees across the country were offered work-from-home arrangements, and the UK Government advice was to work remotely wherever possible.
However, 11 million people in the UK are suffering from back pain due to their homeworking setup, according to Bupa.
Despite the challenges, the benefits of remote and flexible working are now being proved. Surveys are showing that many employees now want work-from-home setups to continue post-pandemic. Research from Eskenzi found that 91% of the country’s office workers want to work from home ‘at least part of the time’.
This trend is highlighting the importance of ergonomics, particularly in the home workspace.
Ergonomics at Home: Why It Matters
Ergonomics in the work environment refers to optimising how we work. It brings together our anatomy, physiology, data, and engineering to help us design a work environment fit for those in it. It primarily involves designing the workplace in a way that is conducive for better productivity and wellbeing. This is why understanding ergonomics is so important when working from home because we don’t have occupational health around to assess us.
A home office that isn’t optimised ergonomically can increase the likelihood back pain and spinal health issues (stemming from poor posture). The American Posture Institute notes that it can also lead to lower metabolic rate and respiratory dysfunction. Physical ailments can result in mental health issues such as stress and depression, and ergonomic specialists, Posturite, says that poor posture can impact how positive and confident we feel.
Good ergonomics ultimately ensures maximum comfort and safety, enhancing your productivity, all while keeping you healthy and pain-free.
Ergonomic basics when working from home
Often, making your home office ergonomically-sound takes only slight adjustments. In The Homeworker volume 2, we take a look at how to work ergonomically with some of the best equipment and setup recommendations. Some suggestions include:
- Keep your screen level to your eyes to avoid either tilting or craning your neck.
- Place your keyboard or laptop closer to you to prevent shoulder strain.
- Invest in a comfortable chair.
- Make sure your desk is just the right height for you.
- Use an anti-glare screen protector to protect your eyes and prevent eye strain.
- Arrange your supplies such that everything is at arm’s length (thereby ensuring economy of movement).
The 20-20-20 rule
Ergonomics when working from home isn’t just about adjusting your equipment or securing the right furniture. There are other ways to work optimally that benefit your overall wellbeing.
The 20-20-20 rule recommends you look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds after every 20 minutes of screen time.
Read The Homeworker volume 1 for pilates and yoga moves specifically for homeworkers.
The importance of work breaks
According to an article in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health:
“Work breaks are an important measure to offer employees time to immediately recover from work-related consequences of strain after high work demands and, in turn, to improve their mental and physical wellbeing, their performance, and workplace safety.”
Ergonomists tend to agree that taking breaks and adjusting your position can enhance your mental wellbeing, but also your productivity and creativity.
In fact, one study has shown that scheduling your breaks aids creative thinking and idea generation.
As working from home becomes the longer-term norm for more people, we will need to think more carefully about how we set up our home office or workspace. It will also become more important for employers to consider the benefits they offer remote workers and how they can support their home-based staff with ergonomics.
Each issue of The Homeworker magazine looks at your wellbeing, productivity and home workspace. Stay up to date with our newsletter so you find out about each issue.
This is a guest post from Allie Cooper