How To Set Up An Ergonomic Workstation At Home

When working from home, it is important to give yourself the right support at your desk to prevent strain and pain. Setting up an ergonomic workstation at home is the key to better posture and a more productive work day.

Creating a suitable workstation doesn’t have to be expensive and unattainable because regular household items can be used. Simply changing a few of your working habits, like slumping over your desk, will also make a world of difference. Not only will you alleviate unnecessary stress and strain on your body, but you will also feel more productive and focused.

Follow these tips to set up a basic ergonomically sustainable workspace for your home office. This will prevent repetitive strain injuries, stiffness, and long-term back, neck, and shoulder problems.

Ergonomic Home Workstation

Why is an Ergonomic Workstation Important?

When it comes to posture, if your body is in a sustained position for prolonged periods of time, your muscles adapt to those specific loads. Loading can result in straining muscles and ligaments in their lengthened or shortened position, which can cause fatigue and muscle stiffness. Since our bodies were made to move, we shouldn’t be immobile for long.

To solve this problem, you don’t have to quit your job just yet. You can make a few changes to your workstation and your working habits to undo the effects of sitting all day.

An ergonomic workstation helps to keep your body in as neutral a position as possible to alleviate stress on your muscles and joints. Ergonomic elements of your workstation will also reduce the development of repetitive strain injuries that affect your musculo-skeletal system.

Equipment Needed for an Ergonomic Workstation

The equipment you need will be based on the type of work you do because not all desk jobs are the same. You may solely use a laptop and nothing else, or you may require additional screens, a microphone, or you might work with paper more than other people do.

The main use of your hands should direct your workstation setup because this affects your posture. First, determine whether you type on your keyboard for hours or whether you predominantly use your mouse.

Craft a workspace that enables you to feel the most comfortable while doing the task you do the most. Using a mouse may require adding wrist support to your setup to keep your wrist in a more natural position. In cases where you read or write on paper a lot, you will likely need additional lighting to avoid eye strain.

While creating an ergonomic workstation for yourself, there are many tools that you can buy to add to your space, such as lumbar support pads, wrist pads, and more. These purchases are expensive and are not always needed. In most cases, you can use items you have at home to make these support systems while keeping them tailored to your unique body shape.

5 Areas to Look After While Working

If you focus on these five areas while working at your home workstation you will drastically improve your posture, reduce the chance of sustaining repetitive strain injuries, and you will feel more motivated and focused while working.

1. Posture

The first area to focus on is your posture. When working at a desk for long periods, people tend to slump or slouch over their desks. This puts the body in a rounded position and places strain on the spine and the musculo-skeletal system.

An example of a rounded posture from incorrect sitting position.
A rounded position that causes strain when sitting for long periods.

To find the right posture, place your feet flat on the floor, or a step if your feet don’t comfortably reach the floor. Your knees and hips should then form a comfortable 90-degree angle. The seat of the chair shouldn’t be touching the back of your knees as this can inhibit blood flow to your legs and ankles.

Your lower back should comfortably touch the back of the chair. If your chair doesn’t have a pronounced curve where your lower back is, then you need to add extra support to prevent lower back pain. A simple home solution is to roll up a small towel and wedge it between your lower back and the chair. This will encourage good posture as it comfortably supports your spine, facilitating a comfortable upright and neutral position.

2. Wrist Positioning

When working on a computer, your hands and wrists can sometimes be in awkward positions while typing and using a mouse. To prevent repetitive strain, try the following adjustments to position your wrists comfortably.

Firstly, ensure that your chair is correctly adjusted to the height of your desk, if your chair is too low, your elbows will be flexed more than 90 degrees, placing pressure on your wrists as your wrists rest on the edge of the desk. If you’re unable to adjust your chair, consider boosting your seat by sitting on pillows.

Ideally, you’d want your arms in a comfortable position, shoulders relaxed with elbows bent at about 90 degrees and your wrists comfortably positioned in neutral.

If your wrists extend past neutral  while typing or holding the mouse, roll up a small tea towel and place it under your wrist. You can also buy a wrist support pad. This allows your wrist to rest comfortably, remaining neutral to your forearm and easing the train. In the long run, it reduces your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Useful to have a mouse wrist pad

3. Head and Neck Support

Working on laptops and desktops that are not eye level or too far away causes you to poke your neck forwards and slouch your shoulders. This position can create strain on your neck, shoulders, and lower back, resulting in headaches, muscle stiffness and pain.

To encourage an improved and more comfortable head and neck position, the computer monitor should be eye level, which is usually difficult to achieve with a laptop, but not impossible.

If you don’t have an external monitor to set the height correctly, consider using an external keyboard and placing your laptop on some books to raise the screen. You can also purchase a laptop stand, placing your laptop at an ideal level.

If the screen is too far away from you, you will end up leaning forward to see better. Make sure that the monitor is an arm’s length away to prevent eye strain and stop you from slouching.

Ideal placement of your laptop.

4. Movement

Our bodies are made to move and working at a desk all day makes it difficult to get our steps in. You may often find yourself engrossed in your work, so much so that hours can go by and you have not changed position or moved away from your work space. Due to work demands and pressure, we have succumbed to a habit that is only to our detriment.

Ideally, you should move your body every 20 minutes to promote blood flow, oxygenation and to release muscle tension. Movement will break the cycle of repetitive strain placed on your body when you are susceptible to sustained positions and activities requiring repetitive movement.

The problem with this is that you may find yourself in a good workflow, and breaking your workflow every 20 minutes can be distracting. Instead, set an alarm to go off every 40 minutes while you work. The first two times you hear your alarm, move your neck around. Tilt it to the left, the right, front, and back. You can also give your arms a stretch or rotate your wrists.

Every third time you hear your alarm go off, stand up from your desk and walk around for a minute or two. You can go to the bathroom, get a cup of water or coffee, or just stretch your body out. This may seem annoying at first, but building this habit of small movements regularly throughout the day will add so much to your health and wellbeing.

5. Lighting

Ensuring there is adequate lighting in your workspace will help reduce eye strain and prevent you from placing your neck in awkward positions. If you have minimal lighting, you are likely to crane your neck forward to see the keyboard better or to find a position where you can see best.

Add extra light sources on your desk to make sure you can see everything you need to without straining your eyes. If you notice your posture changing to see better, this is a sign you need to add more lighting.

Ideal lighting for your home office

Why is Movement Important?

Sitting all day creates a sedentary lifestyle that can lead to numerous health conditions later in life. A highly sedentary lifestyle can lead to health problems including diabetes and heart disease.

To reduce the long-term negative health effects of sitting all day, merely standing up or moving the body every 20–40 minutes will help. When you sit for long periods, there are physiological changes that take place – decreased metabolism; increased fatty tissue and loss of muscle tone.

Consider interchanging between a standing desk and seated work set-up. This facilitates a balanced, ergonomic friendly work routine, which can only be to your benefit.

Final Thoughts

Any type of job that requires constant repetitive movements or sustained postures can negatively impact the musculo-skeletal system in your body. Even sitting in one position can cause negative health problems and have long-term effects.

Making a few minor changes to your home workstation and incorporating movement into your work routine can counteract these negative effects and promote a healthier lifestyle.

If you have sustained injuries or feel the strain from your work position, contact Pegram Physiotherapy today to see how we can help you.