10 Ways to Improve Your Home Office Ergonomics
Ergonomics. It’s a term that seems to be everywhere, especially since 2020 accelerated the paradigm shift in how and where much of the workforce is able to work. Offices and HQs have moved from bustling city streets, to apartments, quiet suburban streets and coffee shops. Living rooms are now board rooms, and couches are corner suites. Put simply, the office has moved home. Ergonomics is defined as “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment”. There are psychological and muscular aspects to ergonomics. Psychologically, we get stressed, tired, and lose productivity when our workspace isn't cohesive. Muscularly, when you sit in an uncomfortable chair, at an uncomfortable desk, you run the risk of back and neck pain. And staying sedentary for extended periods of time can cause long term health problems.
Here are 10 easy ways you can improve the ergonomics of your office:
Stand up frequently! By sitting 8 to 9 hours a day, we increase our risk of diabetes, heart disease, and depression. The most colorful book that talks about these issues is Dr. James Levine's Get Up: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What you Can Do About It. Plain and simple, we need to stand. Standing desks have become one of the ways to combat this. They allow us to continue as they allow you to continue working while simultaneously combating some of the potential risks of extended bouts of sitting. It’s multi-tasking at its finest! No matter if your desk is height adjustable or not, it is important to remember to create a routine that works for you. Start easy by standing during phone calls and see where it takes you.
Take walks. While there are no longer conference rooms to walk to or cafeterias to get away from your desk, it is still very important to find time to get up from your desk with purpose. Studies have shown that walking 5 minutes an hour improves your mood, helps you better focus, and even reduces hunger pangs.
Choose a desk that fits your legs comfortably so there is clearance for your legs, thighs and feet. If you have to adjust your body to an uncomfortable position, like crossing your legs all day, you risk long term muscular pain. Consider an ergonomic desk setup to avoid this pain.
Choose ergonomic office chairs that support your spinal curves, and adjust the height so your feet can rest comfortably on the floor, with your thighs parallel to the floor.While you don't need to spend 100% of the time in the "90/90/90" sitting straight posture (pictured below), you should spend most of your time in positions that are comfortable for your body.
Keep key materials like your keyboard, mouse, and notepad easily within your reach. If they are not within arms reach, make sure you have to stand (see #1) to get them. This minimizes straining of your muscles.
- Keep your monitor an arm's length away, directly at or just slightly below eye levels. This will prevent you from twisting your neck while doing everyday work. If you have multiple monitors, put the brightest one on the side, rather than the middle, and do not place it in front of a window or bright background. Glare and brightness can cause eyestrain. Read more about monitor position here.
- Eat the right foods. If you are a snacker, avoid foods with simple carbohydrates like potato chips and candy or foods high in sodium. Those are the foods that lead to the mid day fatigue, causing lulls and lapses in productivity. Try a fruit smoothie or a piece of dark chocolate instead.
- Try breathing routines. There are studies that show strong links between respiration and focus, as breathing helps regulate the noradrenaline levels in our brain, too much of which fuels stress. Deep breathing also has been shown to lower anxiety, consciously changing from the long term shallow breathing that keeps the body in stress. Even just a few minutes a day of deep breathing can help bring your body out of stress and help refocus on the tasks at hand.
- Go into each workday with a plan. Understand what you need to get accomplished in a given day, or week, and plan your day around this. There are countless examples of prioritization like the 80-20 Pareto Principle, or the 60-30-10 plan. Others recommend planning 70% of your day, and leaving 30% up to the various "fire drills" that may emerge. Regardless of your method, make time to plan your workday, and ensure that you are getting the big items done.
- Reward yourself for accomplishments. Whether large or small, ensure you have ways to celebrate a job well done. This gives you your own sense of positive feedback and prevents real progress from drifting into the mundane. You deserve it!
We hope you use these tools to tackle your office reality and improve your workplace ergonomics.
As the workplace changes and ergonomics becomes even more important at home, check back to this blog for more tips, research, and ways to improve your efficiency at work, no matter where that is.
Also, check out our standing desks to start envisioning your perfect ergonomic workspace.