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If you’re like me, you were completely unprepared to work from home (for an extended period of time) when COVID-19 interrupted our lives. I had just moved into my downtown Chicago apartment, with not even a table and chairs, when I was told to work from home. For the first two weeks, I worked from my couch—hunched over my laptop with the armrest supporting my back. Until then, I had never experienced tension headaches.

After two weeks, I returned to my home state of Indiana to stay with family. What a delight it was to have a kitchen table and chair to work from! But after a couple of days, my neck and lower back began to hurt. To resolve it, I attended the Working from Home – Things You Need to Know webinar and completed the VelocityEHS Ergonomics Home Office Self-Assessment.

Prior to assessing my workstation, I completed the e-learning module, located in the “Learn” section of the Office Ergonomics software. The course was developed for people like me, with little knowledge in ergonomics. I learned about musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which are soft tissue injuries caused by exposure to MSD risk factors (force, posture, and frequency), and their warning signs (aches, pain, and numbness). I also learned about the Four Points of Contact model (Head to Source, Hands to Devices, Body to Chair, and Feet to Floor) that helps users identify issues at their own workstations so that they can fix them.

The next step was to complete my self-assessment, located in the “Do” section of the software. I answered a series of questions, all to evaluate my current workstation setup. During the process, I was able to stop and assess areas of concern, such as the posture of my head, shoulders, lower back, and wrists. I definitely felt more in tune with my body and was starting to get a feel for what I needed out of a workstation.

Lastly, based on my responses, the system configured a concern level rating (score) of my workstation. I went to the “Manage” section for the result. The scores are colored by risk level (green/mild,  yellow/moderate, and red/severe). I received a moderate score of 59 but was very close to being in the red. YIKES! This was due to monitor placement (below eye level), glare on the monitor screen, wrists not in a neutral position, inadequate lumbar support on my chair, and incorrect chair height. I was thankful I didn’t complete the self-assessment when I was working from my couch in Chicago.

One of my favorite parts of this system is the list of recommended solutions to lower your score. In fact, I got 38 suggestions! These included using a stack of books to raise the height of my monitor to eye level, purchasing an external keyboard and mouse, sitting on a cushion to correct my keyboard and mouse height, and using an additional small cushion to provide lumbar support for my back. After making some minor adjustments, I lowered my score to 8!

What’s best, it only took me about 15 minutes to transform my workstation! I noticed immediate changes in my posture, and my productivity and motivation increased, giving me more energy to take on new tasks.