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    COVID-19 Response: Working from Home? Think Ergonomics…

    workplace ergonomics
    • Published
    • 27 April 2020
    • Category
    • General

    Many people are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic (and at other times, too) without the benefit of an ergonomic workstation.

    Here are some simple tips to help prevent muscle aches and pains, eye strain, headaches, fatigue and other physical complaints when working for a prolonged time on a computer or doing tasks that require fine-motor skills such as sewing, assembly or making crafts for sale.

    1. Start by evaluating your work area. Do you sit on the living room couch, at a high counter, kitchen table or desk? What is the height of your workstation? What kind of chair are you using? Where do you rest your feet – on the floor, a footrest or chair legs? Is the room lighting bright or dim, or is there glare? Is your workspace clean or cluttered? Is there a headset, speakerphone or other hands-free option for phone calls?
    2. Don’t take the word “laptop” literally. Your head is just about as heavy as a 10-12-pound bowling ball, so you can image why your neck muscles get tired when you are looking down at your screen.
    3. If you do not have an ergonomic office chair that can be adjusted to fit your body, choose a chair in your house that supports your low back. The distance between your knees and the seat pad should be about two finger widths. If your feet don’t sit flat on the floor, use an object that can function as a footrest.
    4. The work surface height should be level with your elbow when arms are relaxed at your sides. For computer users, it’s preferable to use a monitor with a keyboard and mouse when working long hours. Monitors monitors should be placed within a comfortable distance and set up so you can view the top third of the screen when looking straight ahead. You can raise the monitor with a stand, book or ream of paper, if necessary.
    5. Adjust lighting so you can see well and arrange window coverings to reduce glare. Make sure you have the correct prescription for corrective lenses. To prevent eye strain, practice the 20-20-20 rule – take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.
    6. If you are writing or texting, use the dictation function on your device. This reduces keystrokes and your risk for repetitive strain injury. When using a smartphone, try to keep it as close to eye level as possible.
    7. Take good care of yourself. Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep a day, drink water throughout the day and eat nutritious foods. Take deep breaths. Frequently clean your workspace with sanitizing wipes. Put away materials you don’t use every day. A clean space improves efficiency and reduces anxiety.
    8. Most importantly, keep moving. Get up every 30 minutes to walk around and stretch. Studies show sitting for six or more hours a day contributes to the development of heart disease. Substitute the workplace water cooler or break room with a trip to your kitchen to re-fill your water bottle; talk to your children, partner or housemates; feed your pet or a take brisk walk outdoors. These simple tips will help you stay comfortable during long hours of work at home.
    Posted by Bryan Reich, M.Ed, AT-C, CEAS, director of WorkCare’s Industrial Athlete Program


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