Debbie Williams

Article Summary:

How to create a safe ergonomic environment for your home office.

Basic Ergonomic Tips For Your Home Office

Working from home can diminish your commute time and reduce stress, allowing you more quality time at home with those you love. But is sitting at your desk for long hours at a time actually GOOD for you?

Take the time to care for yourself as you care for your family. Implement these basic ergonomic tips when choosing a computing work surface. First, the keyboard should be in a position where your arms are comfortable and not strained, with forearms horizontal to the floor. Shoulders should be relaxed and not hunched, wrists should be straight. Do not use a wrist rest while entering data, but during rest periods. Place the mouse in close proximity to the keyboard so you don't have to move all over the desktop while working. Adjust the display so that the top of your monitor screen is slightly below eye level for easy viewing. For comfortable reading, your eyes should be roughly 20-24 inches from the computer monitor.

According to back and pain management specialists, the ideal office setup is to start with a good ergonomic chair. Adjust the chair to the person, then adjust the rest of the workspace accordingly. The weight of your legs should rest on the feet, not on the seat pan of the chair. There should be three inches between the back of the knee and the ends of your chair's seat pan. Once your chair is properly adjusted, relax your shoulders; bend the arms 90 degrees, and wherever the hands fall is where to place your keyboard. Your computer monitor should be at arm's length, with the top of the screen at eyebrow level. Writing surfaces should be 29-30" high.

Invest in a good copyholder to prevent back strain. Supporting the lower back is like building a strong foundation for the neck. But leaning forward to work on your desk does not give good support to your spine. That's why a tilting seat pan is crucial to an ergonomic chair, to support the back during writing or keyboarding, otherwise the pelvis locks and compresses the disks.

What if your work environment is not ideal, and you have to make do with your desktop or table? You still need to purchase a good ergonomic chair, adjusting yourself accordingly. Foot platforms support the feet and help in positioning. Adjusting the height of your chair transfers the weight of your body to the feet when you use a footrest. Be sure to get one that tilts or adjusts as you shift your feet during the course of the day. If you're handy with a hammer and nails, make a wooden wedge in your workshop, then paint or stain to match your office furniture. If you work away from your home office for a considerable amount of time, you might consider investing in a support for your back, such as one that is self-inflating. Or roll up a thick towel to stuff behind your low back as a lumbar support.

I'm sure you've heard many of these suggestions in the past from your own mother: sit up straight, don't slouch, your eyes are going to stick like that! Using common sense ergonomics will improve your creativity, performance, and work habits. But it's up to you to get rid of those pains-in-the-neck you counter during the course of your day.

Debbie Williams is an author, speaker and organizing strategist who offers tools and training to help you put your life in order. Learn more at from her website at Organized Times.

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