How to Set Up an Ergonomic Home Workspace

Ergonomic officeAs many of us have transitioned to working from home, I thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss how to set up an ergonomic office or workspace. Having a great set-up can prevent injuries, such as neck strain, carpal tunnel and repetitive strain injuries, from occurring a few weeks down the road.

Chair Set-Up for an Ergonomic Workspace

There are many chairs out there claiming to be ergonomic, but ergonomics is not a one-size-fits all solution and finding a good fit with a chair is one of the most challenging aspects of an ergonomic set up. Given that we may have fewer options than usual during a pandemic, let’s go through a best-case scenario and discuss things that you can use at home to tailor your set up.

Hopefully, you have a chair with a height-adjustable seat. Ideally you want your feet planted on the floor and your elbows, hips, ankles, and knees at 90-degree angles. If your current chair does not allow that, here are some suggestions: If you need to sit higher to keep your joints at 90-degree angles, try adding height by sitting on a firm pillow. If your feet aren’t touching the ground, try using a foot stool or similar sturdy object.

Next, does your chair have low back (lumbar) support? The cushion/support should be cradling the small of your back (where the spine naturally goes towards your front body). If your chair at home doesn’t have this capability, try using a small pillow or folded bath towel.


Desk Height

The height of your desk should allow enough room for your legs and thighs. If your desk is too low and lacks fancy mechanics to adjust the height, try propping the desk up on sturdy boards or blocks. If the desk is too high, then try raising your chair (or put a pillow down to sit on) and use the footrest as mentioned above. This website is a great resource that calculates your desk height, computer screen height, etc., based on your own height.


Computer screen, keyboard & mouse

Given the current circumstances, many people are using their laptop at home. Laptops create a number of issues that contribute to poor posture: the keyboard is more narrow than an external keyboard and it draws your shoulders inwards; the mouse pad is in the center and demands a great deal from the finger muscles as well as pulls your shoulder forward; the screen is too low which places our neck in too much of a flexed position. I find the best solution is to use the laptop only for its hard drive and screen, and to use an external keyboard and mouse rather than the built-in ones. You could also consider propping your laptop up on a box/riser so that the top of the screen is at eye level and the screen is approximately an arms distance away from you. Ideally, an external keyboard and mouse will be used at desk height to mimic a typical desktop computer setup.


Work Breaks

While work breaks do not necessarily relate to ergonomics, they are equally important! Scheduling work breaks to get up and move, perhaps do some light stretching, is even more important now than ever. Your body and its tolerance may be challenged by changing a great deal of factors at once, and your make-shift home station may not be as comfortable as your usual workspace. Therefore, make sure you are getting up often and getting the blood flowing!

By taking a few moments to create a good space now, hopefully you will be preventing injuries that may crop up in a few weeks. Start today by making one small adjustment, and slowly work towards creating your ideal ergonomic workspace!


Read more articles and tips from Christine Campbell, Physiotherapist.

pain, Physiotherapy

Christine Campbell, Physiotherapist

Christine Campbell is an experienced physiotherapist and an indispensable member of the Kingston Integrated Healthcare team since 2016. She provides quality one-on-one, hands-on physiotherapy care that improves overall function by addressing underlying causes and movement problems.


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