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Five Workstation Tips for the Hybrid Office Worker

Woman sitting at table working on laptop

As we’re all still determining the “new normal,” many workers have returned to the office in a hybrid model. Workers are opting to go into the office a few days of the week or month, while working from home the other days. Because of this arrangement, companies are replacing dedicated workstations with open desks and communal spaces in order to decrease their overall footprint and save money.

Unfortunately, this setup may leave workers, who have been tailoring their work-from-home spaces over the course of the pandemic and before, with little to no ergonomic solutions in the office - putting them at higher risk for developing a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).

Here are some tips for improving your comfort and health while working in the office, wherever that may be.

1. Use a portable laptop stand.

A laptop stand allows you to adjust the height of your laptop monitor, so that the top of the monitor is at or right below eye level. This reduces neck strain while working at the computer for longer periods of time. Additionally, folding laptop stands can fold down to a small size and weight, reducing the amount of space they take in your work bag and the strain on your shoulder.

2. Purchase a wireless keyboard and mouse.

Lifting the laptop to a higher height makes it essential to use an external mouse and keyboard. Your input devices should be near elbow-height and using an external mouse and keyboard will allow you to maintain this posture. It is best to buy cordless external devices to reduce clutter.

Ideally, the keyboard should not have a numeric pad to reduce the travel to the mouse, but if it is needed, consider buying a separate numeric pad so it can be moved around. The ultimate goal is to reduce the travel of your hands while mousing and keying.

3. Bring a small blanket or jacket for non-adjustable chairs.

Communal spaces promote collaboration, but that means that you may find yourself working at a desk with a non-adjustable chair. To remedy this, bring a light jacket or blanket to make quick adjustments.

If the chair is too large for you, your feet may dangle and the back of your calves may press against the seat pan, which may cause discomfort and numbness after long periods of time. To solve this, roll the jacket or blanket up and place it at your lower back. This will push you forward in the seat while providing back support.

If the chair is too small, your back may have insufficient support, and your knees and thighs may not lay on the seat pan, causing you to feel constricted while working. To increase your comfort in a small chair, place the jacket or blanket on your seat as an extra cushion that will raise your seated height.

4. Use a roller-bag and double it as a footrest.

Commuting to work with additional supplies can mean a heavier backpack, briefcase, or purse. Consider using a roller bag for commuting days so that you don't have to carry all your equipment on your back and shoulders. Additionally, if your feet don’t touch the floor when sitting at your workstation, you can double the roller bag as a footrest. Lifting your feet will reduce the pressure on your thighs when sitting in chairs that are too big, as well as joint discomfort to the knees and hips. If you do prefer to carry your bag, opt for a two-strap backpack so that the weight of the bag is near your center of gravity.

5. Use a headset.

Many of us have been using headsets more frequently to focus during online calls while working at home. In a hybrid office, you may still need to meet with others online and take calls while in an open setting. If you're taking calls on your cell phone, you may be inclined to cradle your phone in your neck to take notes while talking. This can cause discomfort in the neck. For both phone and video calls on your laptop, bring your headset.

Also consider noise-canceling headphones with a design that goes over the ear, so that you can block distractions during periods of deep work and cause less fatigue to your ears with long periods of use.

Even though office environments are evolving to fewer assigned desks and more floating workstations, you can still use ergonomic principles to adjust your workstation to fit your needs and increase your comfort.

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