Working from home appears to be here to stay for many of us. Working from a tiny desk or hunched over a laptop on your sofa is likely to lead to neck, arm and back pains. Helping yourself maintain reasonable posture, and staying generally active will go a long way in keeping you fit and well.
Here’s what to do:
1) Risk Assessment
The best place to start is with a DSE risk assessment. A government body called the Health and Safety Executive publish a simple template which you can find here.
If you’re self-employed/ freelance you’ll need to go through it yourself. If you are employed your employer is responsible for your wellbeing when working from home. They may have their own risk assessment procedures – it is worth checking with your HR team.
The risk assessment will help you identify areas that need improvement. Most are quite easy to fix.
The location of your workstation obviously depends on how much space you have at home. Try to find somewhere with good lighting; both natural and artificial. It’s best to have natural daylight sources at 90′ to your desk i..e not directly in front or behind your desk.
Also consider whether you have room for a desk and chair with space to move around the furniture. Do you also have good access to sockets or will you need to find an extension lead?
Most importantly, do you get good wifi reception?
Your desk should be around 73cm high, but the depth and width are dependant on your available space. How much equipment and paperwork will you need to accommodate? Make sure your chair will fit under the desk; sometimes shelves, desk legs, cables and storage can get in the way.
If space is limited you could consider a folding desk.
A sit-stand desk is another popular option; just remember to switch between sitting and standing every 45-60 mins.
A large, clear monitor is so much more comfortable than peering over a laptop all day. Please invest in a good screen if you can! It should be about arm’s length away from you and roughly eye level. You shouldn’t need to tilt your head down or hunch forwards to see it clearly.
You may need to raise the screen up on a few boxes or mount it to the wall. If you use multiple screens you should position the main screen (the one you use most often) front and centre, with any secondary screens to the side. If you use 2 screens equally they should be placed side by side and directly in front of you.
If you really can’t get a separate monitor please raise your laptop up to a comfortable height. You can use boxes, books or a special laptop stand. You’ll need a peripheral mouse and keyboard at elbow level.
5) Mouse and keyboard
It’s a good idea to add a peripheral mouse and keyboard to your laptop. They should sit directly in front of you on your desk, so your arms should not need to reach outwards, inwards or stretch forwards. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your elbows should stay close to your sides. This is MUCH more comfortable than using the laptop’s trackpad and tiny keyboard.
The same advice applies to a tablet and stylus.
You may find an upright/joystick style mouse more comfortable than a traditional mouse. They can be very useful if you’re recovering from Repetitive Strain Injury or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
We’ll be sharing a more detailed article on this next month, but essentially you need a chair that is well padded, fits neatly under your desk and supports your low back. The chair should be height adjustable, and you should sit with your elbows roughly level with the top of the desk so your forearms and wrists can lightly rest on the keyboard.
If you’re under about 5’6″ and position your chair as described above you may find your feet don’t reach the floor. In this situation, a footrest will help you feel much more supported and comfortable.
8) Motion is Lotion!
The most important tip of all! All the fancy furniture and ergonomics advice in the world won’t help if you sit still all day. Get up, fidget, change position, take a tea break, go for a lunchtime walk and try to get out of breath at least once a day!
Now you know how to work from home with good posture!