Many people throughout the country are transitioning to working from home to observe recommendations for distancing amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Adjustments are being made to routines and we’re doing our best to remain connected and collaborative as much as possible. At Madonna TherapyPlus, we often treat patients who experience pain or strain due to repetitive work or improper ergonomics while performing job duties. We want to make sure that your at-home workstation minimizes your risk of injury or strain, so we asked Madonna’s ergonomics expert, Jody Luzum, for some tips on how to set up a safe and effective work environment. Here are some of Jody’s top tips:
Choose a good spot
Choosing the best work environment can be a challenge, as your options may be limited based on your home’s layout. Ideally, you want a place that is separate from the high traffic areas of your home. This is especially true if you have others living with you, as cords, wires and other equipment in high-traveled areas can be tripping hazards. Also, your computer monitor screen should not be positioned in front of a bright window. This can cause the screen to appear washed out and strain your eyes. Use an anti-glare filter if necessary.
And a great chair
A chair that promotes good posture is important, but you really don’t need to spend a great deal of money. Ideally, you want one with a dynamic seat back that allows you to comfortably sit all the way back. Make sure your chair allows your feet to rest completely on the floor, otherwise use a stool so your feet don’t dangle. If your chair has insufficient adjustment, lower back support may be improved with a cushion\towel roll. “You should change your sitting position occasionally during the workday,” said Jody. “Sitting in a fixed position for too long can induce discomfort.”
Angle your upper body
Your keyboard should be positioned so that your arms are relaxed and comfortable, and your forearms are roughly horizontal. Your wrists should remain flat and straight in relation to your forearms to operate your keyboard and mouse. If you use a wrist or palm rest, it should NOT be used while actually keying but in between periods of keying. Jody recommends that if you choose to use a wrist rest, one with a broad, flat surface design works best. “Avoid soft and squishy wrist rests because these will contour to your wrist and encourage wrist-twisting movements,” said Jody. “Your hands should be able to glide over the surface of a wrist rest during typing.”
Take frequent breaks
Frequent breaks are necessary and help to minimize injury as well. Jody recommends that every 15 minutes, you take at least a brief eye break to avoid strain. Typing is typically done in short bursts, so relax and flatten your hands to prevent wrist strain in between spurts. A brief walk around the block in the middle of your work day can help stretch muscles and keep blood flowing, minimizing soreness. Jody recommends using Alexa or setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to get up and move.
Ultimately we are all adjusting to some unprecedented circumstances when it comes to our work and home lives. These tips can help minimize injury and strain, but ultimately listen to your body, stretch when necessary and make adjustments if you start to feel discomfort.