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Sharp Health News

Creating a home workstation

July 20, 2020

Woman working on computer at home
As COVID-19 cases soar and remote work becomes more a long-term solution than a temporary one, it is imperative to learn how to safely and effectively work from home, says Melissa Mora, DPT, a certified ergonomics assessment specialist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers.

“My role is to identify where employees may be susceptible to injuries at their workstations or work environments and to prevent or remedy those situations,” says Mora.

Workstation guidelines
She shares the following guidelines for setting up a safe and effective home workstation:

  1. The top of your computer monitor should be at or slightly below eye level.
  2. Your elbows should be slightly higher than your hands when typing.
  3. Your hips should be slightly higher than your knees.
  4. There should be clearance under your desk for your legs.
  5. Your back and feet should be supported.
  6. Everything you use frequently (mouse and keyboard) should be reachable with your elbows at your side. Items that you use less frequently, such as the phone for some people, should be within arm’s reach, with your back still touching the chair.
Sit or stand?
Sitting or standing at your desk, or a combination of the two, has been the subject of much debate over the past several years. Mora recommends a combination of the two.

“The most effective way to obtain the benefits from sitting and standing is to sit in a neutral working posture and then intermittently stand and move around for other tasks such as talking on the phone, getting papers from a printer or just taking a stretch break,” says Mora. “Height-adjustable sit-stand workstations are beneficial in that one can quickly change from a sitting to standing posture and back. We recommend standing for 10 to 20 minutes at a time if you do have a sit-stand workstation.”

Breaks are essential
Taking periodic breaks during the day to reset yourself and your body are a must, says Mora.

“You should always take micro breaks to give your body a rest,” she says. “Micro breaks are one- or two-minute stretch breaks to change position and thus demand on muscles. These should be taken at least once every two hours.”

General tips
Mora urges those working from home to follow these tips:
  • If you’re using a laptop, get an external keyboard and mouse so that your laptop can be propped up to eye level with stacked books or a laptop stand, and your hands can still be at the correct level.
  • Use a chair with back support to help offload your spine. Sitting on a stool, couch or exercise ball increases the amount of compression through your spine.
  • Sit for no longer than two hours at a time. Postural muscles fatigue faster when they are in the same position for prolonged amounts of time. Get up and get some blood flow to those muscles for faster recovery.
  • Use a speakerphone or headphones with a microphone to take calls instead of holding the phone to your ear.
  • Place your monitor directly in front of you. If you have two monitors, the position depends on your workflow.
As for the optimum desk setup, Mora has a simple solution. “Your desk setup should allow you to relax in a neutral posture,” she says. “You shouldn’t need to hold yourself in good posture throughout the day. The chair and workstation should support you so that you can focus on your work.”

Sound advice to make your home workstation experience safe and productive.

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