Setting up your workstation to work from home

Desk ergonomics working at home

Setting up your workstation to work from home

If you are now working from home and this is new to you, you will need to think about how to set up your workspace.

If so far you have been used to say working upstairs because that’s the only quiet place you can find in the house, and you’ve been sitting on the bed with your laptop on your lap, or you’ve been curled up on the settee downstairs with your laptop, please stop!

Your body will not thank you for it when you try to move after being in that position for a long time and your legs are stiff and your back aches.

Find somewhere to sit properly on a chair, at a table or some other surface where you can work sitting upright. There are other alternatives such as using an ironing board as a temporary standing desk. Not advisable for long term but anything to get you out of using the ironing board for anything but ironing cannot be all bad!

A table will be better.

As for the chair, if you have a proper office chair at home then that is great, you can adjust it to the right height for the table you are working at and hopefully adjust the lumbar support. But in many situations, this probably is not the case and you might be using something like a dining room chair. The main issue here is posture, are you sitting up straight?

I do not mean bolt upright but with your back properly supported, not slouching, or twisting.

Our lower spine has a natural curve in the lumbar region, and you need to make sure this area is supported. If it isn’t, you put a lot of strain on the lower back muscles as they have to work much harder to maintain good posture. In most instances, this is where we start to lean forward or hunch over and that is when you start to feel stiff and achy.

The best way to support your lumbar spine is to either use a cushion or wrap up a towel really tightly and place either in the gap between the curve and the chair.

The next important thing about the chair is the height and whether your feet are flat on the floor.

I tend to tuck my feet one behind the other under the chair which isn’t good – don’t do that. It usually means that the height of the chair needs adjusting. Your feet should be flat on the floor but comfortably so. If you cannot do that, you may need a footrest or put a box under the table to support your feet.

The reason we need to do this is because it helps to keep your posture in the correct position. If you cross your legs, you will be tilting one side of your pelvis which is the base of your spine. So, if that is tilted then so is your spine and that can cause backache and neck pain.

It is important to keep an eye on the position of your arms and wrists and make sure as you are typing your wrists are as flat as possible. If possible, invest in a keyboard rest to help with this and maybe a vertical mouse.

The next thing we need to consider is your monitor.

If you are using a desktop computer, then this is easy to adjust to the right height so that you are not tilting your head upwards or constantly looking down. You should be able to keep your head in a neutral position.

If you have a laptop the same applies in that the screen should be at a height which allows you to look at the screen without having to tilt your head. For this reason, it would be a sensible idea, if you have not already, to invest in a separate keyboard and mouse so that you can raise the laptop to the correct height for you.

The distance away from you is also important to prevent you from leaning forwards in your chair towards the screen. It should ideally be at arm’s length so if you have an outstretched arm towards your screen you should just be able to touch it with your middle finger.

The reason this is important is because you can cause strain on your neck muscles if you are sitting with your head in a forward position. The human head is very heavy, it weighs on average about 8 to 12 pounds so if you move your head forwards your poor old neck muscles are having to bear the strain of that weight.

If you find you are suffering from eye strain or headaches it could be that the screen is too bright or there is a glare.

Just on another point, as we are all taking part in Zoom meetings, if online meetings are going to be a regular occurrence think about where your screen is situated with regard to adequate lighting and adjust it now so you don’t have to do so every time you need to be seen online.

Finally, If you are still in the habit of taking phone calls with the phone placed between your ear and your raised shoulder at the same time as you are typing or getting on with something else,  get a headset or put the phone on loudspeaker. You will be doing your neck a great favour.