Work Smarter at Home
When working at home, it’s good to take a break every 30 minutes to stay healthy and minimize injury to your back, shoulders, and arms, says Kermit Davis, Ph.D., an expert in office ergonomics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “The body doesn’t like static postures continually because you don’t want to do all sitting or all standing all the time. You want to alter your position and change it up throughout the day.”
Workers across the nation have converted at-home spaces into makeshift offices during the coronavirus pandemic. But few had guidance when it came to making new spaces ergonomically safe. Most businesses discouraged employees from taking home their monitors, chairs, and other office equipment. This lack of guidance left employees to build home offices and use equipment not intended for long-term use.
Davis conducted an ergonomic assessment of employees at the University of Cincinnati, sending out an email survey to faculty and staff after the coronavirus pandemic prompted the university to go remote. The survey had 843 people complete it. Davis says the ergonomic evaluations of the home workstations identified many issues that could adversely affect the workers. Many chairs were the wrong height, with about 41% too low and 2% too high. 53% of workers had armrests on their chairs, but 32% did not use them. Not using the armrests causes contact stress on forearms when rested on the hard front edge of work surfaces and strain across the upper back as the arms need support. 69% said they didn’t use their chair’s back support, and 73% reported not having any lumbar support.
The position of a computer monitor was often too low or off to the side. Three-quarters of monitors were laptops, which were too low relative to the workers’ eye height. External monitors were also routinely set up too low in 52% of participants or too high in 4%. According to the study, another common issue was the lack of primary screens centered in front of the worker’s vision, occurring in 31% of respondents twisting their necks and/or back to view the monitor.
Here are a few tips that might be helpful:
- Place a pillow on your seat to elevate the seat height or behind your back to provide lumbar support.
- Try raising the monitor.
- Use an external keyboard and mouse.
- Standing workstations should have the top of the monitor at eye height and directly in front, keyboards positioned at a height so that forearms are parallel to the ground (approximately 90° elbow angle), and a soft or rounded front edge to the working surface.
- If obtaining a new chair or identifying an appropriate sitting workstation at home is not possible, rotating between a poor sitting workstation and a standing workstation would be the next best practice.
University of Cincinnati. “Ergonomics expert says work smarter at home: Sit up, raise the screen, pad the chair.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 July 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200728150637.htm
How to Make Your Telework
Environment More Healthy
How to Make Your Telework Environment More Healthy
Many workers continue to work from home, whether full-time or on a hybrid schedule. Your work arrangements must not take a toll on your health. Here are some tips that can help you optimize your telework environment, improve your health, and reduce stress.
Find a space where noise, lighting, and temperature are comfortable and well-controlled. Even if you are at home, a dedicated workspace can help you focus better.
An office chair with armrests is ideal for sitting. Avoid working on a couch or soft chairs. Allow your feet to rest flat on the floor with your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle. Periodically stand and work as an alternative to sitting. Ensure that your seating supports the natural curve of your back.
Place any external monitors about an arm’s length away with the top of the monitor at or slightly below eye level. Position monitors to reduce glare from windows or other light sources. If you use an external keyboard or mouse, maintain good wrist and elbow posture.
Periodic rests and changes in posture are beneficial. Ensure that you also take breaks from screen time, including tablets or cell phones. Try the 20/20/20 rule to help combat eye fatigue.
Working from home can blur the lines between work and home. Take these steps to reduce stress while teleworking:
- Keep a routine
- Create focus times
- Go to bed and wake at the same time each day.
- Eat healthy meals
- Spend 30 minutes outside in daylight
“Working from Home: How to Optimize Your Work Environment and Stay Healthy.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2020/11/20/working-from-home/
Job Burnout: What Is It and What Do I Do?
Job burnout is a particular type of work-related stress – a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. Many factors could lead to job burnout, including depression, personality traits, and personal life. Whatever the cause, job burnout can affect your physical and mental performance at and away from work. You may be experiencing burnout if you ask yourself:
- Do I drag myself to work and have trouble getting started?
- Do I lack the energy to be consistently productive?
- Do I find it hard to concentrate?
- Have my sleep habits changed?
- Am I troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
What to do if you feel burnt out at work:
- Seek support: Reach out to co-workers, friends, or loved ones to help you cope. Take advantage of mental health services if you have access to an employee assistance program.
- Try a relaxing or mindfulness activity: Explore programs that can help with stress, such as yoga, meditation, or mindfulness apps.
- Evaluate your options: Discuss concerns with your manager or supervisor. Set specific goals while you are at work. Try to determine what tasks are priorities and which ones can wait.
- Get some exercise.
- Get some sleep.
“Know the Signs of Job Burnout.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 5 June 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642.