The massive transition to work from home hasn’t been relatively as easy as it seemed. Many employees have had to improvise a workstation, with some working from a home office desk. Others are even sitting on the couch or commandeering the kitchen table during working hours.

The transition to working in a home office has brought about challenges that need adjusting to. The benefits of good home office ergonomics when engaged in remote work include:

  • Increased productivity

  • Less muscle fatigue

  • Reduced work-related injuries in number and severity



Why ergonomics matter

Ergonomics is an applied science that deals mainly with designing and arranging things that people use to ensure users interact safely and efficiently.

An ergonomically optimized workspace ensures you work efficiently and safely by protecting your body from recurring pain. It should also enable you to focus on your task better. This is especially important when you're working remotely in a home office.



Ergonomic mistakes for remote workers to avoid in your home office

Investing in a home office setup may seem easier than working at a coffee shop. However, some mistakes may compromise your health and productivity. Here are some common mistakes remote workers like yourself should look out for:


Using office chairs that aren't well adjusted

A work chair is the foundation of your ergonomic workspace; therefore, it should be an investment in your health. If your office chair is only based on fashion or price, it won't do much for your health, productivity, and posture in the long run.

What you can do:

Spend a few minutes learning about the options before purchasing an office chair. Some essential characteristics for ergonomic office chairs include:

  • Ideally, for most people, the seat should be 17 to 22 inches. Set the height of the chair to just below your knees when standing.

  • Ensure it has proper lumbar support.

  • It should have the proper padding and be breathable.


Opting for fashion and price over function

Many companies offer options that go with trends in the market. However, it is easy to get carried away by the beauty and affordability of a workstation over its functionality.

A work surface designed with its outlook in mind tends to overlook the practical aspect, leading to an uncomfortable but elegant space.

What you can do:

Consider how much you are willing to spend, then work with that amount to get the best value.


Letting your feet dangle

If your feet are dangling while sitting, it is a huge liability. Since your feet aren’t supported, your back is likely to lack support, leading to overexertion.

What you can do:

Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet comfortably touch the ground.

You'll know you've achieved this when the back of your knees doesn’t touch the seat of the chair while sitting.Leave a space of about 1-2 inches between the seat and the back of your knees.

This stabilizes your lower back, leading to fewer chances of incurring back pain. 


Placing your monitor in the wrong spot

If your computer screen is placed too high or too low, it may force you to either hunch over, lean back too much, or experience eye strain and neck strain.

What you can do:

Lower or raise your external monitor or laptop so that your eyes are level with the top of the screen. Feel free to lower the external monitor by an extra one or two inches if you wear bifocals.

Move the computer screen closer or farther away so that you can easily read the screen. Ideally, it should be at an arm's length away.



The external keyboard height is wrong

Improperly positioning your keyboard and external mouse is another common mistake. This may lead to upper limb disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, lumbar spine pain, and chronic back pain.

When your mouse and keyboard are on different levels, small repetitive movements tend to cause extra strain to your musculoskeletal system.

Your mouse and external keyboard should be at the same height as your elbows and forearms.

What you can do:

Adjust the height of your desk and office chair. 



Elbows and hands are at an odd angle when typing 

Often, when the keyboard is too close to you or your office chair is too low, it results in closed elbows, wrist flexion, and shrugged shoulders.

What you can do:

Pull back your seat and raising your seat height so that your elbows open to between 90 and 110 degrees. Ensure your shoulders are relaxed and externally rotated.

A piece of good advice would be to consider investing in a split keyboard, an external keyboard, or a laptop stand.



Staying in one position for too long

On some days, you may be stacked with long video call meetings that limit your movement with your team members or fellow employees. Standing too long or sitting long isn’t recommended purely for health reasons such as neck pain. 

What you can do:

It is important to change positions every 30-90 minutes. Using an ergonomic standing desk, you can easily switch up between standing and sitting.


Keeping things you need far away

Admittedly, it is easy to get distracted when you work remotely. A study showed that  53.1% of respondents admitted it was hard to separate non-work life from work life.

Often, situations become especially distracting when you settle down to work before assembling all the things you need in your workspace.

Having to get up to access things that are far away is one of the main ways you easily get distracted. Especially with your family members around, this might minimize your work efficiency.

What you can do:

It is best to gather everything you may need to work to minimize distractions before settling down to work.


Ergonomics aren’t a checklist

It is easy to assume that as long a workstation is comfortable, it is ultimately functional and safe.

Ergonomic checklists help you ensure all aspects of your workspace, the use of the equipment, and the actual routine while working remotely are checked for ergonomic risks. This helps identify and fix any issues immediately before they can cause any injuries. 

Working from home sounds like a dream. However, it is easy to start fighting aches only after a few days. It is important to take time to consider the above ergonomic tips when working from your home office to stay healthy and avoid burnout. Remember to take regular breaks to rest and become more conscious of how you work.