Transform Any Room into an Office
Posted on March 31, 2020 | in Ergonomics
Whether you’ve been working from home regularly or have recently found yourself confined to your dining room, there are always things you can do to improve your workspace. Take five minutes and read about a few quick and cost-free ways to improve your setup and ensure you stay in good health while working from home.
Focus on the tips I’ve provided for three body areas: the neck, arms, and back. Stay tuned until the end for bonus tips and how to set up your own standing desk!
Tips for the Neck
- Your neck should be straight, as if there’s a string pulling you up toward the ceiling.
- The top edge of your monitor should be directly in front of your eyes, about an arm’s length away.
- If you find your chin tilting down or up, or twisting side to side, you may need to make some adjustments.
What to do:
- Do you have an external monitor? Use it! Televisions with HDMI/VGA (or other connecting ports) can be used as a monitor in a pinch.
- Stack your monitor or laptop on books, boxes, or even on a separate bookshelf to avoid bending your neck for a prolonged period of time. You will need an external mouse and keyboard if you try this!
- Clear up clutter so there’s enough room directly in front of you for your monitor and input devices.
Tips for the Arms
- Your elbows should hang naturally beside your rib cage, with your shoulders relaxed.
- Mice, keyboard, trackpad, reference documents, notepads, or any input devices should be directly in front of you and should not require lifting your arms to access.
- If you find your shoulders hunched forward or shrugging upward, or if there’s space between your elbows and sides, you may need to make some adjustments.
What to do:
- Elevate your chair or add a pillow on your seat to raise yourself up if you find your shoulders are shrugging upward.
- If your worktable is too high, consider moving your input devices lower. For example, place the keyboard and mouse on a board on your lap.
- If working with your laptop on your knees, add a pillow or a box underneath the laptop to raise it slightly. (We do not recommend working in this posture for prolonged periods.)
- Remember, even if your chair has arm rests, you don’t have to constantly use them if they prop your elbows away from your body.
Tips for the Back
- Your back should be straight, and fully supported or resting on a seat back.
- All parts of your back (lower, middle, and upper) should be supported.
- If you find yourself not using the seat back, leaning forward or to the side, or constantly readjusting due to discomfort, you may need to make some adjustments.
What to do:
- Add pillows to your seat and back to increase comfort and encourage use of the seat back.
- Adjust your seat so that your elbows and input devices are at the same height.
- If your feet aren’t flat on the floor, add a box to raise them.
Build your own standing workstation
- Find a flat surface (ideally taller), such as the kitchen counter, a bookshelf, or even the laundry machine, and use it to stack your monitor/laptop on some boxes until it’s about eye level. (Make sure you have an external mouse and keyboard.)
- Clear enough space at elbow height for your input devices.
- Rotate between standing and sitting frequently, standing for only half-hour periods at a time.
Bonus tips for working from home
- Make sure you have enough lighting; get some bright, new bulbs for your workspace.
- Open the windows and get some fresh air!
- Variety is key. Change it up at least once every two hours.
- Move around a lot and try working on different surfaces around your household. You may be surprised at what works!
- Drink lots of water; it’ll get you up and walking around both to get water and to use the restroom.
- Move to the couch if you’re reading a reference book or documents.
- Taking a phone call? Try pacing and getting some steps in.
Looking for more tips when working from home? Check out our work-from-home toolbox.