In your Neck? Back? Or Shoulders?

It could be, if you’re working at your kitchen table, on your couch, or while sitting in your favorite chair.

With “Safer at Home” orders extended, and classes canceled, more people are working at home. Don’t create extra problems by sacrificing ergonomics.

Ergonomics is the science of designing a comfortable environment that lessens the stress and strain on our joints and muscles.

When it comes to the home office, setting up an ergonomically correct workstation is just as important as it is at a traditional office, maybe even more so.

Let’s look at some things you can do to work in a better position.

Fit your monitor to your face and eyes. 

Position your monitor so it is at least an arm’s length in front of you and at a height that allows you to hold your head in a natural position. Placing your monitor the right distance away from your face and aligned with your line of sight will reduce head, neck, and shoulder strain.

Three ways you can avoid eye strain and associated headaches

  1. Remember the 20-20-20 rule. As you work, remember to look away from the screen every 20 minutes for about 20 seconds. During that time, focus on something at least 20 feet in the distance.
  2. Purchase blue-light filtering glasses. The blue light from your computer screen increases eye strain and interferes with melatonin levels, which are necessary for restful sleep.
  3. Use a larger monitor when possible. You don’t have to buy a new monitor. Sometimes you can use your television. Most televisions manufactured in the last 10 years have HMDI ports that allow electronic devices to use the television screen as a display.

Position your keyboard to provide support and comfort to your arms, shoulders, and wrists.
As you type, your elbows and forearms should be at a 90-degree angle. Your hands and fingers should rest naturally on the keyboard. Current keyboards support your wrists as you type by keeping them flat or raised slightly, positioning your hand at a downward slant.

Avoid bending your hand up from the base of the wrist, which can cause pain and discomfort long after you shut down your computer.

Finding the right-height work surface and chair may be more challenging.
While you may not have access to an ergonomically correct, adjustable-office chair to pull up to the kitchen table, you need to find a chair that works with your body.

There are three key areas to keep in mind when sitting at your workspace.

Your chair should allow you to sit comfortably with your feet on the floor and your knees bent 90 degrees. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and extend beyond the edge of the chair seat. If you can fit the width of two or three fingers between the chair and the back of your leg, your seat is the right depth.

When it comes to sitting ergonomically, don’t sit up straight. Reclining at a 10- to 15-degree angle helps prevent back pain and takes the pressure off the hip flexors.

Find a work surface that is the same height as your elbows, so your arms bend naturally.

Set up your workspace for health and success.
There may be a few pieces of equipment you can add to your workspace that will help you get more done and avoid some of the stresses and strains from working at home.

Add an alarm clock to your workspace
A clock may be one of the most important pieces of equipment you can add to your desk. Not only can it remind you to look up and away, but it can also help you counteract the negative effects of sitting.

Every 20 minutes get up and move around for a minute or two. Changing from a sitting to a standing position helps recalibrate your muscular, nervous, and circulatory systems.

Invest in an adjustable-laptop or monitor riser.
Using a riser gives you the option to work from a sitting or a standing position during the day. Changing your position can refresh your energy.

Purchase an ergonomically correct keyboard and mouse.
Whether you use a tablet, a workstation or a laptop, an ergonomic keyboard decreases strain on your arms, shoulders, and wrists.

If you use a laptop, investing in an external keyboard and mouse gives you the flexibility to create a workspace that provides the most comfort.

Take frequent breaks during the day.
Your eyes are not the only part of your body that needs frequent breaks, your joints and muscles can benefit from them, too. Take time to stretch or walk outside.

Taking a few minutes to exercise or stretch can help you avoid a stiff neck and tight shoulders. Add a few yoga poses to relieve back pain.

Working at home is not easy. Some people find it very distracting; others never take a break from work.

Creating a schedule that builds in break times and creating a workspace that fits your body, can help you get through “Safer at Home” with less stress and strain.

Use this handy checklist from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to make sure your workspace is as comfortable as possible.

Check out other ways to be ergonomically correct in your daily life.