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Ergonomic advice for those newly working from home
By Jane Lavery, Senior Occupational Health Nurse at Staywell Occupational Health – 7th April 2020
I have been a home worker for the past 12 months, so I have personal experience of the impact on fitness when work moves to the remote office. In the same way that many of you may be working from home for the first time, or perhaps for the first time over an extended time frame, I am now working from my laptop on the kitchen table. This change of circumstance will raise a number of potential hazards for which there are some simple solutions that will help to reduce the impact.
Set up a proper workstation
For those who have existing specialist Display Screen Equipment (DSE) equipment at work, your employer should try to transport your existing equipment for temporary use at home. For some larger items, such as desks, where moving the equipment has proved difficult, you may have to adapt to working without them for a short time. Your employer is unlikely to be able to conduct a full workstation assessment with you at this time but you may wish to complete your own checklist in order to make the best of what you have.
Have a look at the height of your monitor, the top third of your screen should be level with your eyes to avoid overstretching the neck. If the screen is too low, consider obtaining a separate keyboard and mouse and then elevating your laptop on a small box or pile of large books. Keep the keyboard and mouse near to you, maintaining a neutral relaxed arm position.
Have good posture and add lumbar support
If you do not have access to a DSE compliant chair try to adopt a neutral posture in order to optimise your comfort. Aim to raise up your seat height to ensure your arms are at right angles to your desk. You may need to use a cushion or two to boost the height of your seat, this then may mean you need to use a footrest to raise your feet. An empty cardboard box filled with cushions or blankets can make a suitable make do footrest. The chair user should be prepared to adjust the support each time the chair is used ensuring that the neutral posture is adopted as much as possible.
If you are unable to have your usual chair transported from work or your employer is unable to fund a DSE chair for temporary home use, you may want to invest in a chair for yourself. You can get an excellent chair with all of the best features for under £150 online. Type the following into your web search; DSE compliant chair sliding seat pan inflatable lumbar.
Take breaks and change your position
In addition to optimising your seated comfort, there are some other simple activities you can perform to reduce the risks from display screen work. Microbreaks of at least 5 mins every hour are recommended in order to stand and stretch. This activity also allows you to change your focus and to blink your eyes which may help to restore eye comfort. You can take this short break time to make a cup of tea or check on relatives. When taking calls, take a short walk and whilst doing so, shrug your shoulders, mobilise your wrist joints, turn your neck to the left, right, up and down. Do some simple back and leg stretches throughout the day to keep joints supple.
Perhaps now is a good time to set some exercise challenges. You are, after all, saving a bit of time each day now that you are not commuting. Perhaps there is an added incentive to find some personal space from what may be a very busy home environment. You could use your allowed exercise time to participate in an NHS Couch to 5K running programme. Or maybe an exercise session with the family performing PE with Joe Wicks You never know, an improver programme may leave you in better shape than before you began working from home!