Having an ergonomic home office needn’t be expensive. Here are some basic components that can make all the difference to your overall well-being.
When you set up your home office, how much thought was given to the ergonomics of your equipment and furniture? If you’re like many people, the initial focus was getting a desk, a chair, and a quiet space to work. But after a while, and many back aches later, you realize you need to look at your work space from a more ergonomic perspective.
Studies have shown that teleworkers work longer hours than onsite workers with most of these hours spent sitting in front of a computer. A lot of health issues can develop if an ergonomic approach isn’t taken.
Having an ergonomic home office needn’t be expensive or elaborate. In fact, some of these basic elements will make all the difference to your muscles and other physical systems, and your performance:
- Desk Chair
- Computer Monitor
The basics of an ergonomic chair boils down to flexibility. That is, the ability to move and adjust various parts of the chair: arm rests, height, backrest angle, and seat depth. Moving parts of the chair should conform to help you maintain good posture.
According to the Kansas Chiropractic Foundation, “the long-term effects of poor posture can affect bodily systems (such as digestion, elimination, breathing, muscles, joints and ligaments)”.
Whether a sit desk or stand desk is best for you depends on your personal style and physical needs. Someone who has issues with their legs, such as varicose veins, might not want a stand desk. Otherwise a stress mat would be most necessary. On the other hand, if you have issues with your back, standing for any length of time, even with a mat, can be painful.
Your computer monitor should not cause your neck to be crooked up or down. It should be eye level. You can raise your monitor by placing it on a stand or, better yet, you can invest in a monitor arm. A monitor arm attaches to your monitor and your desk, allowing you to adjust your monitor to whatever level is appropriate for your height.
[See The Workstation Planner, by Ergotron]
An ergonomic keyboard is designed to keep your hands in the most natural position when you are typing. This is a slight upside down “V”. An ergonomic keyboard will also prevent your wrists from being bent while typing because of its soft gradual incline from your desk to the keys themselves. (Note: You can give your wrists additional support by using wrist guards, such as IMAK Smart Gloves.)
“Our hands, wrists, and arms do most of the ‘active’ work at a computer workstation.” (Yale.edu) This can lead to serious nerve damage, known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. To help prevent this painful condition an ergonomic mouse is critical. A good mouse is one that lets your hand rest in a natural position, requiring minimal twisting of your wrists.
Perhaps the most important aspect of lighting, other than to make sure you can see, is that is glare free.
Ceiling light usually offers the most even lighting, but it’s also best to have a light you can move around as your tasks demand. Flexible, glare free lighting is best. Lighting from your computer screen affects you differently at different times of day which can cause eye strain, especially if you work at night.
One way to combat this is to use a monitor light display program such as Flux, a free program which makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.
[See also: Don’t Let Working from Home Ruin Your Health!]
Headphones always have been a danger to our hearing if you listen to music with them too loudly for too long. But ear buds brought hearing loss to a whole new level. Because ear buds don’t cancel out outside noise like regular headphones do we tend to turn our music up louder. And because they fit inside your ear that means we are blasting that loud sound directly into our ear canals. (Are Headphones Bad For Hearing?)
If you need a complete office overhaul, don’t fret. Make one change at a time so you won’t be overwhelmed. Over time you’ll notice that each small change helps you be more productive, happier, and healthier.
Your turn: Do you have an ergonomic home office? If not, what element do you need to work on first?
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