Many of us are now working at home, either for the first time or more often than we did in the past. The shift from ergonomically correct offices to make-shift desks at dining room tables can be problematic. Poor ergonomics combined with sitting for prolonged periods of time, repetitive motions, and awkward working positions, can leave you feeling stiff and sore. Although nothing compares to an individualized ergonomic workplace, these tips will help make your home office a safer and more comfortable place to work.

  1. Adjust your seat height so that your knees are at the same level as your hips or slightly lower. If you can’t adjust your seat height, you can either raise your feet on a box, or sit on a firm cushion to obtain your desired hip level. 
  2. Ideally your chair should support the natural curve of your spine. Make sure you are sitting up straight with your hips and spine against the back of the chair. Place a small cushion or rolled up towel in the small of your back (lumbar spine) to encourage a natural curve in the spine. 
  3. Computer monitor height should be high enough so the top line of text on the monitor is at eye level, or slightly below. (See tips about laptops below). 
  4. Elbows should be bent at 90° and parallel to the ground. Shoulders should be relaxed, pulled down from the ears.
  5. Use a wrist support, and keep a neutral position in the wrist, where knuckles are in line with wrist bones. A rolled fash cloth or dish towel can act as a wrist support. 

CCA’s recommendations for office ergonomics

One of the most challenging aspects of this setup will be if you are restricted to a laptop computer. It is almost impossible for the monitor to be high enough, while at the same time allowing for the keyboard to be at elbow height. If possible, use a seperate keyboard and prop your laptop monitor up to eye level. If no secondary keyboard is available, alternate between raising the laptop on a box and leaving it at table height.

Although a recent trend is to use a stability ball at your desk, they were never meant to replace an office chair. If you choose to use an exercise ball, make sure you are engaging your core, maintaining good posture, and stop when your muscles feel tired. Ultimately these balls should only be used for short periods, or better yet, save them for your exercise routine.

What NOT to do when working from home!

Even with the perfect home office setup, you should be moving and changing positions every 30-50 minutes with a quick stretch break. The Canadian Chiropractic Association offers a free app called “Straighten Up Canada” that provides an easy-to-use posture improvement program that can be used in as little as three minutes a day.

It is unclear how long we will be working from home, but one thing is clear: set up your home office properly now to prevent pain and injury as we move forward in our new work lifestyle.