With more people working from home, kitchens, dining rooms, couches – and even sitting on the floor – have turned into at-home offices. However, these settings were not designed for working on a laptop for 8-10 hours each day. As a result, more people have begun to experience physical aches and pains. We are also seeing aches and pains from patients who have returned to office space after years of working from home. Both scenarios call for a close look at your workspace. Using a few simple modifications, anyone can create an “ergonomic” workspace.
When it comes to an ergonomic assessment of someone’s workspace, all things need to be considered – chair, desk, keyboard, lighting, mouse, work zone, phones, and other commonly used tools or devices. When your workstation is properly set up, it will minimize the amount of reaching, bending, or twisting and allow for a decreased strain on your joints and spine while improving productivity. In addition to the ergonomic setup, the 20/20/20 rule should be followed: every 20 minutes spent looking at a computer screen, you should spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away. This will also be a good reminder to stand up, stretch, or take a lap around your house to improve blood flow and muscle activity.
The basic principles of an ergonomic workstation are as follows:
- Elbows at or above the workstation
- Hips 1 to 2 inches higher than knees
- Standard office chair fits someone as tall as 6’0
- Feet should be flat on the floor
The first modification someone should make is to adjust their work chair. Any modification after that should be conducted by a trained ergonomist or discussed with your physical therapist.
Common DOs and DON’Ts:
- DON’T let your feet dangle
- DO adjust your chair
- DON’T sit or stand for too long
- DO keep your elbows above your workstation
- DON’T use the couch
- DO contact the appropriate person if you are experiencing pain and DON’T wait until the problem gets worse
Just because the word “ergonomic” is associated with your workstation equipment, does not mean it works for everyone. Contact your local PT about your workstation ergonomics, because when we start to think about how we feel when working, we are also adjusting our mindset on taking care of our bodies and doing what is best for our professional careers.
By Alexander Weinert, PT, DPT
Excel Physical Therapy – Emmaus