Set Your Employees Up with the Work from Home Ergonomics Their Body (and Brain) Will Appreciate
It’s easy to make sure your employees are working safely and productively when everyone is together in the office. But with the drastic rise of remote work, office managers and human resources professionals face more of a challenge. Should ensuring proper work from home ergonomics be a concern?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders are the number one cause of workplace injuries and account for nearly 30% of workers’ compensation costs. These include common back pain, head and neck tension, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and a host of other preventable ailments. Luckily, most modern office furniture has been designed to reduce or eliminate common stressors that lead to these injuries.
That’s good news when employees are in the office, handling their day-to-day business at a company provided workstation. But what happens when your staff is abruptly forced to set up shop on a rigid dining room chair, or hunched over their laptops on the couch? Beyond the physical effects, productivity has been shown to take a hit when workers are required to use uncomfortable furnishings over an extended period of time.
The truth is that most people don’t have the luxury of a professional quality workstation in their home. If they do own a desk and chair set, chances are it was purchased with the intention of having a place to browse the web in short stretches, not put in a full 40-hour work week. Any home office setup that sees full-time use should be designed with work from home ergonomics in mind.
Here are a few work from home ergonomics essentials to consider for your team:
If there’s one piece of home office furniture worth investing in, it’s a quality desk chair. Nearly all modern office chairs are designed to be somewhat ergonomically friendly — contoured backrests, waterfall-style seats and adjustable height are some of the most basic ergonomic features — but multifunction models are the top of the line when it comes to health and comfort. As the name suggests, these chairs can be adjusted in multiple ways to meet the specific needs of each user.
Multifunction office chairs are easily spotted by the number of levers under the seat, typically three or more. These levers allow for quick and easy adjustments of the seat’s height, depth and angle as well as the angle of the backrest. Backrests are usually independently adjustable, and some also include built-in lumbar support for all-day comfort. Another important feature that is often overlooked is adjustable armrests. Many multifunction chairs have “4-way” armrests that can be set to a custom height, depth, width and angle.
Ergonomic office chairs are specifically designed to relieve the pain and discomfort that occurs from long stretches of sedentary work. To maintain good posture, users should focus on setting up their chair so that both feet are flat on the floor, knees are at the same height or slightly below the hips, legs and arms are bent at a 90-degree angle, and the back is straight with the shoulders relaxed.
Height Adjustable Desks
Height adjustable desks take work from home ergonomics to another level — literally and figuratively. As more information is becoming available about the negative effects of sitting for extended periods of time, many health-conscious employers and employees have embraced the versatility of standing desks in the home and professional workspace. That’s not to say standing while you work is a completely new trend, however. Several prominent historical figures worked on their feet, including Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill.
Today’s high-end electric height adjustable desks lift anywhere from 24 to 50 inches at the push of a button. Some models even offer programmable presets that save your favorite heights so you can easily change positions without breaking focus. These standing desks typically come in a wide range of size and finish options to fit seamlessly into any workspace. For a more affordable work from home ergonomics option, mechanical sit to stand desks lock into different heights and are occasionally used along with a fixed surface to give users the best of both worlds.
If you decide standing desks are the right choice for your staff, make sure to provide information on proper positioning. The work surface should be set at a height that allows the user to comfortably operate a keyboard and mouse while standing with a straight back and elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. For many, this alone is enough to improve posture and help ease pesky back, shoulder and neck soreness.
Beyond desks and chairs, there are several quality accessories that are worth looking into for your team’s home office setup. Any office desk can be made more ergonomically friendly by attaching a keyboard tray and monitor stand. Keyboard trays allow the user to keep their elbows and forearms at a more comfortable level beneath the desk’s surface, and a single or dual monitor arm lifts the computer screen at or above eye level to help prevent neck strain.
Standing desk accessories like lean stools and comfort mats are a perfect way to enhance work from home ergonomics. Lean stools work at virtually any height to take away the stress of standing while also keeping the legs, back and core more active than a traditional office chair. Anti-fatigue mats feature soft cushioning to make working on your feet a little more comfortable, and they can be used in just about any residential space where long stretches of standing are required. Foot rests are another simple and affordable work from home ergonomics solution for reducing discomfort during a long workday. These lift the feet to ease strain on the legs, back and neck and typically work on carpeted and hard floor surfaces for use in any environment.
Home Office Safety
Just like in the office, safety is paramount when employees are working from home. Make sure all furniture used in your team’s home office setup has been tested to meet strict industry performance standards. It’s also a good idea to opt for professional installation services if they are available. By embracing simple work from home ergonomics, we can ensure the safety, efficiency and productivity of all current and future remote work plans.