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Ergonomic Mistakes to Avoid When Working Remotely

18 September 2023

Remote work isn't just here to stay, it's starting to make some major changes to the way work is carried out at all. Workers become more aware of how much time can be saved when working from home, and employers realize that all those hours in the office aren't necessary.

COVID-19 sent us all into our homes, but it seems that coming out of them is the real challenge!

But the transition to remote working wasn't easy either. Many people who switched to remote work were wholly unprepared for the change, and there have been many complaints about fatigue and injuries caused by their work.

But these are all avoidable! Here are some ergonomic mistakes to avoid when working remotely.

Ergonomic Mistakes For Remote Workers to Avoid

Long-Term Laptop Use

Laptops are great for their portability. With a laptop or notebook, you can work pretty much anywhere you want - from your home office, from the kitchen, from a cafe, even on a plane!

But laptops aren't so spectacular when it comes to ergonomics. When using a laptop, you have to constantly crane your neck down to see the screen, which can put stress on the muscles in your neck and back.

If you raise your laptop up to keep your neck straight, it becomes a nightmare for your arms, because you have to reach up and out to use the keyboard and trackpad.

If your work involves computer use, it is best to avoid doing so on a laptop. However, some people don't necessarily have an option around this, since workplaces provide laptops, and not everyone has a desktop computer at home.

In such cases, it's best to get a laptop stand like FlexiSpot's AlcoveRiser, which can help you keep the laptop at eye level. Use computer peripherals with the laptop - such as a keyboard and mouse - instead of using the ones that come with the laptop instead.

Keep the laptop's in-built keyboard and trackpad for cases where you can't work from your desk, but avoid using them for a long stretch of time. Your body will thank you later.

Working From The Bed or Couch

When the bed is right there, you'd definitely be tempted to just stay in it all day. After all, if you don't have to go to work, you can work from anywhere, right? There's nobody around to see if you're at a desk.

While that may be true, and the lull of your comfy pillows may definitely call to you, it's a horrific idea for your physical health.

The bed or the living room couch is not meant for you to work on, and will undoubtedly put your body in awkward, unnatural positions while you try to work. You may think resting on a soft surface means your body is safe, but this is far from the truth.

When your body is contorted into a strange position, your muscles and joints have to put themselves in stressful positions to hold you up. This can cause a number of problems in the long-run - from muscle pain to nerve compression - and you may even suffer from these injuries for a longer stretch of time.

As tempting as it is to work from the bed, avoid doing so. Instead, get yourself a comfortable ergonomic chair, like FlexiSpot's Standard Office Chair (C5), which provides your body with all the support it needs to stay comfortable.

The right kind of chair supports your arms, head, back and protects your spine from curving unnaturally while you work.

Poor Posture

When working for long periods - whether at the office or at home - you'd find that you end up slouching and hunching over the desk without even realizing. While this may seem more comfortable and easier than sitting up straight, it can be a real pain in the neck (literally) in the long-term.

Slouching causes the muscles in your neck and upper back to strain, which doesn't just cause you pain, but also makes them weaker. As a result, your posture only gets worse because you're unable to hold yourself upright anymore. It will take some time to get your muscles strong enough to maintain good posture after that.

To avoid this, the easiest solution is to not slouch. Make an effort to optimize your workstation for your body type so that your working posture is correct.

The correct sitting posture is where your feet are flat on the ground, your thighs are parallel with the floor and your knees are just below your hips. Your back should be flat against the chair (an ergonomic one!), and you should be looking straight ahead. Your arms should be pressed to your sides and bent at a 90 degree at the elbow, with your wrists in a neutral position.

Sounds complicated? It isn't, really. It may take a while to remind yourself to hold the position, but after some time it becomes a lot easier.

The main problem is to find a workstation that allows all of this. For people of average height and body type, this may be easier, but most people don't fall smack on top of the average, and would have trouble achieving good posture with the standard desks available on the market.

A height adjustable sit-stand desk like FlexiSpot's Premium Standing Desk (E7) can be useful. With height adjustment, you can make sure the desk suits your body and that your posture remains correct while you work.

Staying Idle

Staying idle is another problem that remote workers face. Because they don't necessarily have any coworkers to talk to, and all meetings take place in the same spot, you may find yourself sitting in the same spot for hours on end.

This is bad!

Thus, another benefit of FlexiSpot's standing desk is that it allows you to stand while you work as well, which can be great to offset some of the negative effects of sitting, as well as help you stretch your legs when you're tired.

However, remember that the problem is staying idle, not staying idle while sitting. Even if you're standing and working, don't just stay in one spot. Try and move around as much as you can. This could be doing some stretches under the desk while you work, or just moving around whenever you can. For example, pacing when you’re on the phone, or reading something that you don't have to be at your desk for.

Getting some movement into the day is necessary to keep you healthy.

Bad Lighting

Lighting is often disregarded when it comes to the workspace because you'll make do.

But you shouldn't be making do, you should be making sure that your lighting is suitable! Bad lighting puts strain on your eyes when you work, and after a long day of it, you'd just end up with eye fatigue that could cause migraines and headaches, and even vision problems in serious cases.

Office spaces usually have extra care taken when it comes to lighting but chances are the same is not true for your bedroom.

If your workspace doesn't have good lighting, you should either switch to one that does, or get some supplementary items to improve the lighting. For example, FlexiSpot's Task Lamp can be a great way to light up your desk and minimize the problem of dim lighting.

You should also make sure your computer is positioned in a way that avoids glare and contrast. Use natural light to your advantage, but avoid placing your computer right in front of or behind a window.

Taking Breaks

There is no way to emphasize the importance of taking breaks, particularly when it comes to home offices. At home, there is a general feeling of guilt around taking breaks because nobody is around to see you do it. It may feel like you are slacking off because you're taking a break when you shouldn't be.

However, this is untrue. Breaks are important to protect your health and keep you focused on your work.

In fact, it's important for your body that you take micro breaks every few minutes to stretch your legs and get some of that blood flowing. A ten minute break every hour is recommended, and you should be using these breaks to walk around a bit, put those strained muscles into use so they can relax.

Taking breaks may induce extra guilt in remote workers, but you must remember that you cannot spend eight continuous hours working. In fact, it's better to take a break and stretch than to sit at your desk and try to work without accomplishing anything.

If your body is demanding a break, listen to it! When you put aside your tasks for a while and come back to them five or ten minutes later, you'd find that you're a lot more capable of working productively than if you were simply forcing yourself to keep going.

While most of us weren't prepared for the remote work life at the start, there's no reason we can't be prepared now! After all, remote work isn't going anywhere.