WFH has its ups and downs. At home, we may miss the camaraderie of our co-workers, the endless supply of notepads, and perhaps most of all, our comfy desk setups.
Ergonomics is “the science of work,” which studies how to optimize our well-being when doing our jobs.
For desk jobs, the most prominent home office ergonomics concern is how you sit at your computer — and how often you move.
“When seated, your upper back should rest on the chair’s back, feet flat on the ground, knees slightly below hip level, elbows resting by your side, and the top half of your screen at eye level,” explains Dr. RJ Burr, D.C., Cert. M.D.T., C.S.C.S.
“When you don’t set up a dedicated, ergonomically correct workspace, you’re adapting yourself to your workstation as opposed to the other way around,” Burr explains.
And you don’t need to invest a ton of money in an ergonomic home office setup.
“You can do a lot with a rolled-up towel and some boxes,” says Burr.
Here are some dos and don’ts to setting up an ergonomic home office:
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DO: Boost up your seat with a firm cushion
Are you sitting on a fixed dining room chair?
“If you don’t have an adjustable chair, sit on a cushion, pillow, or folded towels to raise your seat high enough to keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees and forearms parallel to the floor,” says Dr. Dylann Craig Germann, P.T., D.P.T.
DON’T: Kick back on the couch with your laptop
“You want to avoid using a laptop on the couch like the postural plague,” says Burr.
Couches generally don’t provide great support, and working with a laptop on your actual lap causes you to look down and reach forward to a narrow keyboard resulting in slouching. (Sinking and slouching are not doing your back any good.)
DO: Lift your computer monitor with a shoebox or a pile of books
“Your eyes should be level with the top of the monitor,” says Germann. “Books or shoe boxes can be used to lift the monitor so that the screen can be read without straining your neck or looking down.”
Working on a laptop without a separate computer monitor? Elevate your laptop with books or boxes and connect an external keyboard.
DON’T: Sit too close to the monitor
“If you fully straighten your arms out front, your monitor should rest at your fingertips,” explains Germann.
“Placing the monitor too close or too far can lead to discomfort in the neck, shoulders, and lead to eye strain and headaches,” he adds.
DO: Roll up a towel to support your back
“When seated with lumbar support properly, it automatically puts your neck and shoulders in an ideal position, as well as your low back,” says Burr.
DON’T: Reach up (or down) toward your keyboard
You can easily mimic the pull-out keyboard tray of an ergonomic office desk with a few different-sized boxes, explains Burr.
If you’re using a laptop, attach an external keyboard and a mouse to create a desktop setup. Here’s a chance to reuse some of those delivery boxes!
DO: Make a DIY footrest
“Keep both feet flat on the floor,” says Germann. “If necessary, use a box, footstool, or pile of books to position them correctly.”
Anything that keeps your feet flat works — stacking yoga blocks, for example.
DON’T: Spend all day sitting
“It’s important to get out of your seat and take microbreaks like grabbing water or standing up for a quick stretch,” says Burr.
You can combat sitting all day with easy full-body stretches.
DO: Turn a bookshelf or counter into a standing desk
“If you prefer a standing desk, a kitchen counter is a good substitute,” says Germann. Or, anywhere you can place and comfortably reach your computer like a bookshelf.
Research shows that using standing desks can help reduce strain on your lower back and even burn more calories!
DON’T: Keep healthy snacks at your desk
In an office, you had to get up to walk to conference rooms, printers, and of course, the coffee machine, says Burr.
It’s even easier not to move for hours at home, and getting up to recharge is one more reason to get out of your seat.
There are lots of ways to make what you already have work for you and your home office. Go ahead and be creative!