As COVID-19 has drastically increased the number of employees working remotely, a lot of people found themselves swapping the office for their homes.
But it’s not as easy a switch as you might think. It’s important to make your home office as ergonomic as possible if you want to maximise your productivity and limit its impact on your health
So whether you’ve set up in a spare room, or you’re just hijacking the dining room table for eight hours a day, here is some simple advice that anybody can use to set up an ergonomic home office.
We’ll start with some general tips and advice, including:
- What do we mean by ergonomic?
- Watch your posture
- Take regular breaks
- Organise your desk
Then, we’ll list some ergonomic equipment you should consider, including:
- Mouse and keyboard
If you want more general information on working from home, check out our article, “Running a business from home: tips on how to succeed”.
What do we mean by ergonomic?
Ergonomics is the study of employee efficiency in the workplace. So when we talk about something being ergonomic, like an office, we really mean it’s been built with human behaviour in mind.
Ergonomics is important because modern office life can lead to some nasty health problems like repetitive strain industry, joint problems, muscle pain, and eye strain.
The way you sit at your desk, the height of your monitor, and even the height of your chair can have a huge impact on your physical well-being in the long run. An ergonomic office will decrease the negative impact on your body and increase your productivity.
Watch your posture
Modern working conditions are generally pretty bad for your posture. Sitting down at a desk in front of a screen all day can take its toll after a while, leading to neck, back, and shoulder problems.
To make sure you’re sitting with the correct posture, follow these instructions:
- Keep your feet flat on the floor, and
- When sitting upright, your eyes should be roughly level with the top of the screen.
- Your thighs should be parallel to the floor or pointing very slightly downwards.
- Your arms should be roughly at right angles or pointing slightly downwards.
- As a cross-check, extend one arm horizontally. It should almost touch the centre of the screen.
It might take a bit of tweaking to find your perfect position, so adjustable furniture will make things a lot easier. Alternatively, you could try your best with cushions and footrests.
Organise your desk
Aside from taking conscious steps to improve to reduce the strain on your body, the way you position your equipment can encourage you to sit and move in the right way.
As a general rule of thumb, make sure anything you use a lot can be used while your hands are in a neutral position. In other words, a place where you don’t have to move too much in order to reach.
Keyboard and mouse
While typing or using a mouse, try to keep your wrists straight, your upper arms close to your body, and your hands slightly below the level of your elbows.
You can also adjust the sensitivity of your mouse to avoid straining your wrists.
Try to use headphones or speaker mode if you’re using your phone a lot at work. A lot of people end up holding it between their head and neck which can lead to neck pain.
If you’re working from a laptop, try your best to follow the rules above. Despite the name, working from your lap is not a great idea for your neck, spine, and shoulders.
So work from a desk and, if you can, use a separate wireless keyboard to help keep your arms, and posture right.
Take regular breaks
When you work in an office, there are more reasons to take short breaks. You might need to go talk to somebody, have a tea break with other staff, or go out somewhere to get lunch.
When you’re working from home, you won’t have all these little rituals, so set yourself reminders to take short breaks every hour. Stand up, have a stretch, and get away from your screen for ten minutes.
Take a proper lunch break too. Don’t just wolf down a sandwich while still looking at your screen. Move around, sit in a separate place when eating, and maybe go for a short walk. It’s a great way to lower stress and set yourself up for the second leg of the day.
You’ll see some immediate benefits from an ergonomic chair. As the thing you’ll be sitting in for most of your workday, it can have a huge impact on your posture and movements.
A good ergonomic chair will properly support your spine, making it easier for you to sit up straight. It will be fully adjustable so you can find the posture friendly positions we mentioned earlier. Finally, it should swivel to prevent you from straining too much to reach things.
You may have seen people using things like yoga balls in place of chairs. And while this has been proven to improve your posture and strengthen your core, it’s definitely not a very relaxing set-up. If you do want to try it, it’s probably best to start small, doing it for twenty minutes at a time.
Your desk is another huge part of your home office setup, and there are two basic kinds that can have a positive impact:
- Ergonomic desks
- Standing / adjustable desks
Traditional ergonomic desks are similar to what you might find in a modern office. They are built from right angles, with a circular groove in the middle for your chair.
This design gives you more space to fit everything you need onto your desk, while the curve in the middle gives you access to the whole desk with a swivel chair.
The only downside to desks like these is the space they take up. They are usually quite large, and have an awkward shape, meaning you’ll need the right space to set one up.
If space is an issue, check out our article, “How to create a home office in a small space”.
Standing desks are growing in popularity as we’ve become more conscious about a sedentary office lifestyle.
They have adjustable legs that allow you to place the desk at any height you need. This is great for two reasons.
First, you adjust it to the perfect height for your seated position. Second, as the name suggests, you choose to stand instead of sitting which is much better for your body.
Mouse and keyboard
There are loads of different designs for ergonomic mice and keyboards. It’s really just what you find most comfortable.
An ergonomic mouse will usually fit the shape of your hand, making movement and clicking less strenuous, whereas an ergonomic keyboard will usually have a soft rest for your wrists and forearms.
We should mention that there is no definitive evidence an ergonomic mouse and keyboard reduces the risk of repetitive strain injuries, but they are a lot more comfortable.
If you wear glasses, you might want to look into blue light filter glasses.
Computer screens emit a blue light that strains your eyes over time. Blue light glasses block the blue light to reduce its impact on your eyes.
You should still take regular breaks to get away from your screen while working, but blue light filters can make a huge difference over the course of the day.
Minimise stress in your home office
Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier.
Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are.
You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward!
Find out more here.