These spaces may need to be shared with others, also working from home so space, equipment, sound and privacy need consideration. Earphones (whether noise-cancelling or not) can be very helpful for computer work and phone call use, minimising external distractions to you and others.
Artificial lighting can cause reflection on screens/monitors in homes due to the lower ceilings and light fixtures. To avoid eye and neck strain, consider adjustable natural lighting options where possible and organise a light, open area workspace, such as a living /dining room. A dining room table can be a great place to set yourself up. Consider using larger fonts or document zoom functions to avoid increased craning of the neck.
Ideally the height of your work surface should be approximately 70cms (depending on your height). Freeing up the table space so you can work comfortably is important to achieving a focus zone without distraction.
Chair & Body Posture
A flat comfortable seat that has a good upright back support is ideal. If the chair has a hard back, place a cushion or a rolled-up towel in the lower part of your back so as to support the curve in your back. Keep your feet flat on floor to allow your feet to rest so that your hips, knees and elbow are bent to a comfortable angle (around 90 degrees/right angle bends). If the chair is too high a couple of paper reams or books can act a footrest. Your elbows should be in a comfortably bent position (ideally 90-120 degrees). Your forearms can either be unsupported when using a separate keyboard and mouse or resting supported on the work surface with laptop use.
Screen & Keyboard Positioning
When using a desktop monitor with separate keyboard and mouse, the best place for you monitor is at arms-length distance away and directly in front. When using a laptop, the number buttons on the top panel should be within easy reach of all fingers and achieve the comfortable elbow position of 90-120o bent.
Monitors and laptops should be raised so that when you adopt the good chair and body position (mentioned above) and look straight ahead, your eyes are level with the top of the screen (horizontal top frame). To achieve the correct height, you can use an upturned tub or small box, books or paper reams under the computer screen.
It is recommended that if you use a laptop for extended periods, a wireless keyboard and mouse is useful to help reduce wrist strain. Lastly, the ‘B’ button on your keyboard, whether desktop monitor or laptop, should align with your belly button (e.g. “b for belly”)
Screen Time & Movement
Now that you have everything in place, it’s important to limit continuous computer use and take a break every 30minutes to move around (head to the kitchen for glass of water and drink it standing). Performing one-minute worth of stretches or exercises for 5secs each, is recommended. Some exercises might include:
- squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- backward shoulder rolls.
- extending your trunk backwards.
- stretching the forearms and neck gently.
- calf raises.
It’s also a really good idea to move larger muscle groups every two hours or so. Again, a short break such as walking to the mailbox or around the house or backyard can be wonderful for your mental and physical wellbeing.
Get Creative & Active
Shifting to a standing workspace such as at a high breakfast bench or even a laundry bench for at least a half hour several times a day can energise you. Ideally the monitor height should still be at eye level and the keyboard and mouse raised and a mat under your feet to reduce leg/foot fatigue. Consider remote group collaboration with colleagues as you roam the house with your phone connection, this can enhance your physical, mental and emotional engagement with your work.
Colourful Post-It notes on a nearby wall can be your “to-do list” for the day. The fridge can be an ideal substitute for a whiteboard. Mixing rooms, postures and moving light furniture for different tasks throughout the day also keeps us alert and focussed. Greening up your workspaces by adding a couple of small plants on the desk or sitting next to an open window facing a garden can help enrich your environment.
Aches & Pains
If you do feel an ache or discomfort in any part of your body, understand that motion is lotion for your joints and soft tissues if exposed to long or consistent periods of static postures or less than ideal home workspaces. Re-check your setup and posture, trial taking more regular breaks or increasing the time in a standing workspace and if the pain continues, contact your Physiotherapist (online Telehealth and in-person clinic appointments will be available for assessment, treatment and further advice).