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Ergonomic Do's and Don'ts of Working from Home

01 February 2024

The pandemic sent many of us indoors in an attempt to avoid the spread of infection, and the new work culture that formed has now become the new normal. Millions of people around the world are now working from home - whether that's permanently, or temporarily; fully remote, or hybrid.

With working from home becoming so common, plenty of people have to compromise and build a workspace for themselves out of an existing space, or dedicate a room in the house for a home office.

Unfortunately, most people can't afford to get themselves a home office, complete with all the equipment and furniture they need, which has resulted in a great number of ergonomic problems rising up among remote workers.

That said, there are still ways to prevent such problems. Let's consider some of the do's and don'ts of working from home.

Things to Avoid

Hunching Over Your Desk

Working at your laptop for a couple of hours on the weekend is no big deal, and many people do so quite frequently. However, working at your laptop for a full work week is a different story altogether. Laptops are fixed in place, which means that if it's placed on the desk in front of you, you have to look down to see the screen.

If you're not careful, you may easily end up hunching over it in an attempt to feel comfortable. While it may help in the moment, this position can cause problems in the long-run, and can result in back, shoulder and neck strain.

If you have a desktop computer, it's better to use that for your work instead, since you'll have to be working for long hours at a time. If you don't have any other option, getting an external keyboard with a laptop stand, or an external monitor would be better.

Dangling Feet

You'd be surprised how much it can affect your body if your feet remain dangling off the floor. We don't think too hard about this because our feet aren't involved in our work, so it shouldn't matter if they dangle a bit, would it?

Wrong - if you leave your feet unsupported, it can result in pains and musculoskeletal problems in your legs and back. Not only do your knees get affected by the tension and pressure, but it also puts stress on your lumbar region, which can cause severe and long-term problems.

When sitting at your desk, make sure that your chair is at a height where your feet can rest on the floor. If this is not possible given the height of your desk, use a footstool or foot rest to make sure your feet remain flat on some surface.

Your thighs should be parallel to the floor, and your knees should be slightly lower, or in-line with your hips. Making sure your feet aren't dangling will help you prevent a number of problems you probably didn't even know could exist.

Using Your Couch or Bed

As tempting as it may be to simply stay in bed or lounge about on the living room couch while you work, these places are far from ideal for a workstation. It's definitely comfortable to lie down in, but it's not a good space to work.

For one thing, your productivity is greatly hindered by the laziness that is sure to overcome you if you are lying down in a comfy spot. For another, you are very likely to end up with pains and discomfort in your legs and body because of the peculiar angle at which you'd be working.

Your legs may become numb if you lay in a vertical position for too long, and your wrist gets bent in an awkward position if you have to type away at your laptop. Not to mention the pain in your neck at bending it to see the screen.

It may work for an hour or so at a time if you're feeling really tired and lazy, but it is definitely not recommended to work in such a spot. It's always best to find a comfy desk space instead.

Things to Do

Follow The 20-20-20 Rule

The 20-20-20 rule is a way you can protect your eyes from getting strained after having spent a long time looking at the screen. This rule states that every 20 minutes, you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This helps with reducing strain in the eyes since your muscles get some time to relax.

Because eye strain is a common problem with office workers, this tip is important to incorporate into your workday.

Take Breaks

It's also very tempting to skip the breaks so you can finish your work earlier, but this may actually have the opposite effect. You could probably spend a day or two working nonstop without breaks, but in the long-run this is not sustainable. If you spend too much time trying to focus on work, you'll simply end up burning yourself out and be unable to work very well.

In a remote setting, you also don't have the excuse to walk over to a friend's desk or have a conversation at the water cooler, so you may be more tempted to simply forego breaks altogether. However, breaks are important in helping you rejuvenate your mind and refresh yourself.

Make sure you take frequent breaks to relax, and try to avoid screens or sitting during this time. Since we spend so much time sitting while working anyway, it's a better idea to get up and walk around during breaks than to stay holed up in one spot.

You should also make sure to eat a proper lunch when you do take breaks. You may want to simply snack during the day so you don't get properly hungry - and you may have more opportunity to snack than if you were at the office. However, make sure you eat your meals properly, even if you don't feel hungry.

Maintain Your Posture

Keeping good posture is an important part of making sure your body remains healthy and safe. A neutral posture is best - your shoulders should be relaxed, your feet should remain resting on something, your forearms should be horizontal and you should have proper back support.

Maintaining posture is hard, so you may have to keep reminding yourself to fix it. Once you get into the habit, though, it'll come a lot more naturally.

Use The Right Furniture

Again, not everyone can afford to set up a home office, but the wrong furniture is the opposite of a good investment. While it may work as a substitute in some situations, home furniture is not always made to be ergonomic and won't be able to provide you with the support that proper office furniture can, especially those that are built with ergonomics in mind.

You may not be able to get yourself a brand new desk, but it is very much possible to get yourself a good office chair that supports your body and keeps you safe.

FlexiSpot's, Essential Office chair (C3) for example, is an excellent example of an office chair that you can use for your remote work.

The chair is made of high quality material covered in mesh that allows for better elasticity and therefore helps with making sure the chair can support you for long stretches of time. The cushion is real sponge, and the covering fabric is made of mesh and is flexible. Therefore, you can rest assured your back and spine would remain protected and comfortable.

The chair is height adjustable and keeps you at the right position to carry out your work without straining your arms or legs.

The chair also has lumbar support, which allows the chair to mold to the shape of your spine. This makes sure that the lumbar region of the spine remains supported and you don't end up with back pains or aches.

There is also a back-tilting adjustment feature. You can tilt your chair back by about 120 degrees, which allows you to recline and rest in between tasks. Even if you're working at home, it's not advised to take naps at your bed or couch, since this can - again - hinder your creativity and productivity by making you lazy.

If you're looking for a chair that allows you to relax and get your work done at the same time while also fitting into your home space, this chair is the one you're looking for!