What you need to know about ergonomics and working from home during the lockdown

Working from home eurgonomics

With millions of people around the world now working from home full time due to the COVID-19 lockdown, having a good understanding of ergonomics and setting up your home office the right way has never been more important.

Since the lockdown started, we have seen an influx of people coming into Rosanna Physio with tight lower backs, sore shoulders and neck pain. It’s no wonder why this has happened with so many people working from home hunched over their laptops at the kitchen bench, or slouched back on their couch with their laptop resting on their thighs. If this sounds like your current working from situation, you should find this blog post very beneficial.

Thanks to strict Occupational Health standards in Australia, typically when you are in the office, you will be sitting in an ergonomically sound environment that has:

  • a computer monitor that is slightly below eye level and an arm’s length away

  • a chair that supports your lower back

  • access to a mouse (rather than the track-pad on your laptop)

Thanks to COVID-19, the bottom line is we now need to look at ways of setting up a similar office environment at home as working from home becomes the “new normal.” Ideally for your home office you want to have:

  • a mouse

  • an adjustable office chair

  • a standalone keyboard

  • PC monitor

At a minimum, you should purchase a mouse and standalone keyboard, and then place your laptop on a stack of books so it is at the right ergonomic height (see below diagram):

Review the above diagram and notice the key ergonomic positions for the person on the right:

  • Their feet are flat on the floor and positioned with a slight extension of the knee

  • The chair height has been adjusted so their hips are almost level with their knees

  • Their elbows are bent close to 90 degrees when placed on the keyboard

  • Their back is straight and against the contour of their adjustable office chair

  • Their hips are in line with their shoulders and their head is up (i.e. not slouching)

  • The top of the monitor is positioned so it is slightly below eye level and an arm’s length away

If you don’t have an adjustable office chair, there are a couple things you can do to improve your ergonomics to reduce your risk of injury (we do recommend you make the investment in an office chair if you can):

  • Use a folded towel to rest under your arms if you are sitting too low to take the pressure off your forearms pushing against the hard edges of the table

  • If you’re sitting at on a hard-wooden chair, place a small pillow behind your lower back to provide lumbar support

A good test to use for checking your table height is appropriate is to sit side on to your desk and place your hands in your lap, then move your arm to the side and place it on your desk. If you needed to raise your shoulder up to be able to place your arm on your desk, then you are sitting too low. You should be able to slide your arm onto your desk without needing to use your shoulders.

Once you have set up your home office to be ergonomically sound, you will still take some time to build the positive habits of sitting in the correct position (however now you have the right set-up, it will be much easier and feel natural over a short period of time).

In our next blog, we will be discussing regular stretches and exercises you can implement to keep yourself moving pain free throughout your day – another crucial habit to develop in the “new normal” where we are moving so much less than before when we were in the office.

If you have been having any issues with tight lower backs, sore shoulders and neck pain from working at home, don’t put up with it any longer. Please give our Reception a call on (03) 9457 2336 or book in online so we can get you sitting and moving pain free again.

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