Working from home: 9 ergonomic tips to increase productivity
Right now, more people than ever are working from home. And while this may have seemed like a dream before the pandemic, trying to create a makeshift office has its challenges. There are distractions: kids needing help with schoolwork, the temptation of the kitchen (there’s a reason they’re calling it the quaran-fifteen), and housework that’s practically calling out to us. And unless you already have a home office, chances are you don’t have all of the tools needed to create a comfortable, productive environment while staring at a computer screen for eight hours a day.
But that’s the key to maintaining focus while working from home: designating a particular area as your office and setting it up as such. To be productive, you want to ensure you’re physically and mentally comfortable. Here are helpful ergonomic tips to make the most of your home “office.”
- Choose your work location wisely. If possible, avoid high-traffic areas like the kitchen, family and living rooms so you won’t be easily distracted. (And stay away from the kitchen because you’ll likely be tempted to snack, too.)
- If you can, sit by a window. Natural daylight is optimal lighting. You don’t want to squint, and you don’t want a desk lamp right in front of your eyes. If you use artificial light, use a floor lamp or an overhead fixture so the light is above you, not blindingly in front of you.
- Maintain proper posture to avoid back, shoulder and neck pain. Ideally, you want an adjustable chair that has adequate back support. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your knees at hip height. The top of your knees should be aligned with your hips. Sit up straight and push your hips back into the chair. The back of the chair should be in a slight recline, at approximately 100 degrees. Adjust your armrests so your arms are relaxed—your shoulder muscles shouldn’t be activated. Sit arms-length away from your computer screen. The top of your screen should be around eye level.
- Keep your wrists in a neutral position to prevent wrist tendinitis. Tendinitis occurs near joints, like wrists and elbows, and is caused by overuse from repetitive activities—like when you’re spending eight hours a day typing. If your posture is impaired, it’s more likely you’ll get it. Your hands should be aligned with your forearms—they should not flex up or down. You can buy a keyboard designed to keep your wrists in the optimal position.
- Stretch throughout the day. Doing so can help prevent wrist tendinitis, along with other aches and pains. Start at your toes and stretch your way up your body—it will be a little break you’ll likely look forward to.
- Stand for parts of the day. Staying in one position for a prolonged period of time (whether sitting or standing) is not healthy. If you don’t have an adjustable standing desk, you can put books underneath a laptop (hardcover textbooks work best) so the screen is at eye level when you’re standing.
- Take scheduled breaks. After checking something off your to-do list, go for a walk outside or around the house. For our digestive health—and for our overall physical and mental health—we need to be moving. And if you’re feeling sluggish, an energizing walk will give you that extra push to finish the workday.
- Stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle at your desk to ensure you’re drinking enough fluids. Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches and more, decreasing your focus and productivity.
- After the day is over, limit screen time. Particularly after 8 pm, put away your electronic screens. They radiate blue light and can trick your body into thinking it’s not time for bed. Instead, reading a good, old-fashioned book will help you get a good night’s sleep so you’ll have plenty of energy for the next day.
To find a doctor or athletic trainer at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
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Jonathan Carrier, D.O., is a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor who sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit and Henry Ford Medical Center in Sterling Heights.