The home-office trend came with the outbreak of the pandemic, but it will not go away with it. Working from home is both more comfortable for employees and cheaper for employers. At KISS part of the team is still working from home and we are not going to change that for now. However, the home-office phenomenon poses a new challenge: how to maintain ergonomics while working from home? We have taken expert advice on this and share with you some valuable tips!
Ergonomics is a science that deals with adapting working conditions to the psychophysical capabilities of humans. In more practical terms, it refers to the whole range of factors that contribute to our safety, comfort and efficiency at work.
There are plenty of them: from the quality of the chair, through the quality of the lighting, to the quality of the air – to name a few. It is difficult to analyze them all in detail within a relatively short text. Therefore, let’s focus on the most significant issues – those that are of greatest importance to our health and well-being.
Naturally, the approach to ergonomics depends on the type of work. Home office is obviously about desk work. Although it doesn't seem to have any serious consequences, in practice, spending time in front of a screen for a long time puts strain on the skeletal system, cardiovascular system and eyesight. Tense neck muscles, "spine cracking", bloodshot eyes or swollen calves are just the first symptoms of more serious issues that may occur in the future. The more we ignore good ergonomic practices, the more unpleasant the long-term effects may be.
A poorly organized home office causes the most damage to the spine. – Office work strains your back as much as physical work, exposing both the lumbar and cervical sections of the spine to discopathy – says Łukasz Śliwa, MA, from Be Healthy Physiotherapy Center in Kraków. How does this happen? – Sitting for several hours causes strain on the muscles responsible for stabilizing the spine. This has a direct impact on increasing the strain on the intervertebral discs, their gradual dehydration, protrusion and irritation of nervous structures – as explained by Śliwa.
Factors that contribute to strain during work at home office include: – stooping, – "head drooping" and leaning over the monitor, – semi-sitting position, i.e. "sliding down" from the chair (it puts a particular strain on the loins), – badly shaped chair (no support for the lumbar and cervical sections), – incorrect height of a chair or desk that causes a faulty body position.
The inadequate height of the chair in relation to the desk, especially the armrests, will also increase the strain on the wrists. The effects will sooner or later become apparent – in the form of carpal tunnel syndrome or "tennis elbow".
The health effects of leaning forward or other "deviations" from the correct posture are numerous and result not only in pain. This is all the more so because the spinal disorders they cause can translate into other health problems. In a word – better prevent than cure. But how to do it?
– Proper work ergonomics is crucial here. One of the basic preventive measures is a properly shaped chair that supports the cervical, thoracic and lumbar sections of the spine. Its height relative to the desk should be set so that the hip and knee joints are bent to 90 degrees – as recommended by Łukasz Śliwa, MA. We should also take care of the main (apart from the brain) tool of office work, i.e. our hands. – Our forearms and wrists should also be supported properly. In this way we reduce the risk of overload changes – the expert says.
It is a good idea to use ergonomically designed keyboards or gel pads, which reduce the problem of joint or muscle strain. – Another important factor from the ergonomic point of view is the positioning of the monitor. It should be at a height that allows us to look at the screen without tilting or lifting our heads – as explained by Śliwa.
Adjustments and settings are not everything. Regular activity is also important. It can be simple – like getting up from the computer once an hour, short "walks" around the apartment or even simple gymnastics:
You can also use specialist equipment. – A good practice during office work is to use large rehabilitation balls interchangeably with a chair, e.g. in hourly cycles: one hour sitting on a chair, one hour on a large ball. As the ball's surface is unstable, our postural muscles are constantly activated and thus stabilize the spine more effectively – the expert explains. Posture correctors are also gaining in popularity. Especially among people with a tendency to stoop. – These types of accessories really help to maintain a correct posture while working. However, they should consist of flexible elements. They will help you to maintain a correct posture while allowing you to move a little. Rigid posture correctors, which limit the range of movement, can weaken the spinal muscles – Śliwa warns.
Intertwining home-office work with physical activity is also a good way to take care of the cardiovascular system. For this purpose, apart from movement, an appropriate diet is also necessary. Spending half a day in front of a monitor favors "simple culinary choices" – i.e. stuffing oneself with crisps, cakes and other junk food. At this point we go a little (but not completely) beyond the area of ergonomics, so instead of elaborating on the topic, we refer to professional sources.
Besides the heart, it is worth taking care of your eyesight. Looking at a monitor for hours is not good for the eyes. That is why it is good to tear your eyes away from the screen every few minutes, look around, look into the distance, and additionally perform a short eye gymnastics several times a day. If you have not heard of such acrobatics, it is easy to catch up. You will find some ideas in the video below.
It is also a good idea to install a blue-light filter software. This is the frequency range of electromagnetic radiation, which in excess is harmful to the eyesight, disturbs the daily rhythm and makes it difficult to fall asleep.
What else? Pretty much. It is worth thinking of:
These are at least standard, frequently replaced elements that make up an ergonomically optimized workplace. For some people, many of them will be irrelevant. Others will probably supplement this list with a potted flower or a plush bear. It is essential to feel good in your home office. However, we may not realize that we have felt completely uncomfortable until we make some improvements.
Such is the intention behind this text: to tell you what can be done better for the health, well-being and comfort of a homeworker. We hope that we have managed to give you an inspiring hint or two – and we wish you good luck in optimizing the ergonomics of your home office :)
If you are looking for a partner who will carry out your project with care about the "ergonomics" of cooperation and optimization of activities – let's talk!