With the availability of a Covid-19 vaccine to the general population still months away, millions of office workers across the country continue to work from home, requiring many of us to jockey with roommates, spouses and family members for a workable and comfortable place to get work done.  

The typical workstation in an office was designed to properly accommodate the right sitting position and ergonomics.  At home, however, pieces of furniture have been conscripted to play the role of the office desk: people are working on their couch and coffee table, kitchen counter or card table set up in the basement.

Since these pieces of furniture were not designed with productivity and long-duration sitting in mind, they don’t provide the best way to sit and work.

According to a recent survey, two in five people working from home have reported new or increased pain in their wrist, shoulders or back, likely due to the way they’re sitting.

Employers such as Independent Health have recognized the fact their employees working from home need the right set up and some have arranged discounts at office furniture suppliers or provided stipends to help their employees purchase the equipment or desk chair they need. 

But whether it’s a new chair or second-hand desk, proper ergonomics at home will go a long way to help employee health and productivity.

“As part of its workplace safety program, Independent Health emphasizes workplace ergonomics,” says Shaun Charley, vice president, facilities management. “While ordering a new desk and chair is not necessary, it is helpful to try arrange your chair and desk or table to promote proper ergonomics”.  

David Dombrowski, facilities specialist at Independent Health, is the go-to person for the company employees’ in-office ergonomic needs.  With everyone working from home, he can’t provide the same in-person support as he can when people are in the office.

However, Dombrowski has two easy points of advice for people working at home that will help avoid the fatigue and soreness associated with improper home set-ups.

One is finding a table or desk that is at the proper height for you. “The typical office desk height is usually 28 to 30 inches from the floor, so chances are your kitchen table is too high,” he said. “Try to use a desk or table that’s at a height to keep your wrists flat and straight”.

Taller people should use a higher desk or table, and shorter people should use a shorter desk or table.

The other easy fix is the height of your monitor, especially for someone who wears reading glasses or bifocals. Use a desk or workspace that allows you to place your monitor at or below eye level.

“If you wear bifocals, put your monitor lower so you’re looking down through your bifocals,” he said. “This will avoid head and neck pain.” 

Five other tips for better ergonomics at work and at home include the following:

  • Center your monitor and keyboard in front of you. Try to eliminate any glare on the screen in order to minimize eye strain.
  • Put your documents in line with the keyboard and monitor
  • Your arms and elbows should be close to your body and supported.
  • Change posture often; get up and take frequent short breaks (every 30 minutes or so). 
  • Work in a reclined position with your feet flat on the floor.  Sitting on a higher stool with your feet dangling puts strain on your hips and lower back.