With more and more people working from home, proper ergonomics working from home can be hard to achieve. If you’re working from home and you are starting to feel the repercussions of your bad ergonomics or you’re not sure if you have a good ergonomic workspace, this blog will cover the following for you:
- Desk Chair Ergonomics
- Keyboard Ergonomics
- Ergonomic Monitor Height
- and Overall Office Ergonomic Tips and Tricks
Ergonomic Chair for Home Office
An exercise ball is the best chair when it comes to sitting for an extended time. Unlike what most people think, sitting on the exercise ball is not intended to strengthen your core, well, not directly any way. You see, the unstable surface constantly stimulates the portion of the brain called PMRF (Point-Medullary-Reticular-Formation) which is in charge of the upright against the gravity command. With the upright position, there is no hunching over and compressing the abdominal diaphragm, there is no collapse of the pelvic diaphragm which in turn leads to pelvic floor dysfunction. In essence, the forward posture resulted from prolonged sitting is minimized but let’s not forget that no matter how perfect your work environment is, prolong sitting is detrimental.
In the video below, I really explain the whole thing and remind you that the size of the exercise ball should not be any less than 95 cm which you can deflate and inflate if need be. You can see how in the pic/video below I am sitting on a very large exercise ball that is fairly deflated to accommodate the height of my desk and keeping my neck, arms, and wrist ergonomically placed.
If you insist on sitting on a regular office chair or kitchen chair for that matter, use this Ergonomic Checklist and make sure you place an air cushion over the seat part of the chair. Here is the super basic checklist to start with:
- Sit all the way back in your seat
- Make sure your feet are flat on the floor
- Use an air cushion
- No armrest at all
Standing Desk Ergonomics
Sit-to-stand desks are amazing! If your job requires you to be behind a desk all day, then a sit-to-stand desk is the way to go but remember the rule of 1 and 1 applies: 1-hour standing, 1 hour sitting (on an exercise ball preferably). It’s a good idea to set a timer for yourself and be mindful of where your keyboard and monitor level land when you alternate. I prefer the automated vs levers to go from sitting to standing since the harder it is to switch between sitting and standing, the less chances of you actually changing your position every hour.
Now here is the catch!
BEFORE you go to sit down, you should do what the video below shows: spread your arms, look up and hold that pose to the count of 20 and then go neutral and repeat 3-4 times. This also activates your PMRF which then improves your upright posture better.
Keyboard Ergonomics Working From Home
Your keyboard should be at a level that allows your wrists and elbows to be on the same line and parallel to the ground no matter if you are seated or standing up. This may require a pull-out tray or an adjustment of your chair to accommodate this very important point.
Unfortunately, many people working from home are using a laptop which is the worst thing after an iPad. If a laptop is your only option, then you will need to get a separate keyboard to attach to your laptop. Now you have to have the following in place if you want to not suffer the consequence of tension in the neck, pain between shoulder blades, shoulder, elbow, and wrist issues, pain down the arm, and headaches to name a few!!
- Keep your elbows resting by your side (not squeezed in, not reaching forward) to avoid unnecessary tension.
- Do not leave your hands resting on the desk. If you’re not typing or mousing put your hands on your lap to avoid tension in the neck, headaches, pain going down the arm, and potential tooth grinding!
- Your keyboard needs to be shoulder centered to your body; if your keyboard has the number pad on the right side and you hardly use it, then only the letter portion shoulder be centered to you.
- Swap your mouse for a trackpad if possible and if possible, put the mouse on a clipboard and on your lap vs desktop
- Aim for the largest keyboard you can find (little ones cause more restrictions)
Failure to make these adjustments will result in dysfunction and pain of the wrist, elbow, shoulder, neck pain, and headaches over time. You may even start wondering if you have a pinched nerve in your neck and shoulder.
Ergonomic Monitor Height
Your monitor should be set up so that the center of the monitor is slightly above your eye level when you’re behind your desk. This may require some type of box (I use old textbooks) to prop up the screen. The same goes for laptops, which is why a separate keyboard and mouse are required.
Posturally speaking, staring down to look at the screen results in a forward neck or tech neck posture, rolled forward shoulders, hunch back, and either too much of an arch or collapsed lower back arch to name a few.
In the case of multiple monitors, while they should all be at eye level, keep in mind that your whole body is to face the monitor you are looking at instead of turning your head. This minor adjustment will save you from major headaches. It is so important to turn off the notifications on your monitor as it interferes with your eye movements (reinforces single directional movement over all directions) which in turn has an impact on the brain and its balancing abilities. This is all about Postural Neurology which is the essence of movement and balance. The video below explains this in detail.
Best Exercise for Good Posture if You Work Behind a Desk
We are all designed with the map (homunculus) for functional movement hardwired in us at birth. With a sedentary lifestyle and working behind a computer as an example, this map gets modified to adjust to what gets used more and what gets skipped more! After all, the map has to be current and your current situation of sitting requires overuse of certain parts of your body and under or no use of others over time. The end result will be dysfunctional movement and the result of dysfunctional movement is always pain and injuries. The true treatment is Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) or Developmental Kinesiology and Postural Neurology.
While the smarter thing to do is to avoid the very things that cause the issue when it comes to fixing the problematic body part, we need to remember that each part works and is influenced by other body parts, therefore, isolating the area to try to rehabilitate is only a partial solution to the problem.
If movement is a concert, your brain is the conductor, your map of movement called Homunculus is the musical note in front of the conductor and the body parts are the musicians. Correcting one musician is not going to improve the whole concert because, over time, all other musicians had to adjust their part to get the concert going and sounding as good as they can. The musical note, therefore, got changed and so the map of movement is altered. It is only through postural neurology that we can find out what the current map of movement, when it comes to posture and balance, is and through a series of simple exercises we can reestablish the true map of movement. The video below shows what one of these postural neurology exercises looks like.
For more tips on office ergonomics, you can follow my Youtube Channel and the Ergonomic Playlist and follow us on Instagram: @irvinespine where we post weekly posture and ergonomic tips with you in mind.
If you still have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.