Easy Ergonomic Tips For Working From Home From Geneva’s Occupational Therapists

We all know the feeling of frustration when we get to the office in the morning, and someone has changed or adjusted our chair. Not only is this going to feel uncomfortable until you perform the miracle task of tweaking your seat back to the way it was, but it also distracts you from your more important tasks. Over the long term, working with poor posture can contribute to more severe health issues.

There are a few extra challenges when working from home to ensure you feel comfortable and have good posture. You will need to improvise to an extent, but the tips below will help optimise comfort in your temporary work environment. The key when working from home is to move regularly!

Your Chair

You may not have an adjustable chair at home. If you are using a dining room chair, ensure it is comfortable. To help support your lower back while seated, 

Try rolling up a towel and putting that behind your back (like a lumbar roll), and use duct tape to secure it to the chair,

says Meg King, an Occupational Therapist at Geneva Healthcare. 

If you have an office chair at home, ensure the curve in the backrest fits into the curve of the lower part of your back. Doing this allows your back to be supported for good posture while sitting. If the seat pan (the part you sit on) tilts, you may also find that tilting it slightly forward is more comfortable.

The chair height should enable you to sit with your elbows in line with, or slightly higher than the top of your desk, while your arms should be able to relax by the side of your body. If this is not the case, then use a cushion on the base of your chair, to ensure you are at the correct height while working. 

When sitting at a comfortable height, your feet should be flat on the floor or footrest, and your hips should be positioned slightly higher than your knees. If this is not the case, you may need a footrest/small box to place your feet on.

If your chair has armrests, you may find the armrests prevent you from sitting close enough to the keyboard. If this is the case, you should either change the chair for one that has no armrests, so that you can reach the keyboard without stretching your upper arms forwards.

Your Screen

If you are working from a laptop, a separate keyboard and mouse is preferred to optimise your posture. We realise this is not always possible, so look around to see if anyone has a spare one for you to borrow during the lockdown duration.

It’s also essential to ensure your screen height works for you as well 

Getting your screen height right will promote a more upright posture. Be resourceful when thinking of ways to raise your screen. You can use stacks of paper, old phone books, boxes or even a stack of pots and pans! Find a creative way to raise the screen to eye level,

says Sarah King, Occupational Therapist, Geneva Healthcare.

The screen should be about 600-800mm away from you (approximately an arm’s length), and should also be directly in front of you. Position the screen so it doesn’t face a light source (e.g. window), and so that light from behind you does not reflect directly off the screen. We recommend that it’s best to position for the screen is at 90°.

If you have dual screens at home, use these helpful tips:

  • Minimise the gap between screens
  • Screens should wrap around the user like a semi-circle, so the distance between the user and the screen is relatively constant
  • Both screens should be at the same eye level and positioned approximately an arm’s length away from the user
  • Consider adjusting the font size of the text to ensure both screens display the same information consistently

How to Micropause

A micropause is a short period of relaxation every few minutes, which can be a healthy break in your focus and help to prevent fatigue and discomfort. They are quick, frequent breaks rather than long, occasional breaks and are part of your natural work routine.

How to micropause

  1. Stretch both your arms out in front of you
  2. Rest your hands on the desk, your lap or drop them down by your side
  3. Drop your shoulders and let your arms go floppy
  4. Take a deep breath in (through your nose, and out through your mouth)
  5. Jiggle your arms or have a stretch, and resume work after a few seconds

Other Useful Tips

  • Ensure you move between sitting and standing on a regular half-hourly basis to prevent and manage any discomfort. 

    Movement is key to prevent aches and pains and to manage them if they do arise. Move every half hour, micropause, and stretch regularly during the day

    says Sarah McEntee. If you forget to move, Meg King says to set an alarm 

    Join the beeping world! Why not add another beep to your life and set your phone timer to 30 minutes to remind you to make a move.

  • Our eyes blink less when working at our computers. To reduce eye strain, Meg King suggests 

    try the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look 20 metres away for 20 seconds.

  • Use your keyboard short cuts rather than using your mouse.
  • Position other frequently used items (e.g. telephone) within easy reach, so you do not have to stretch or twist to reach them.
  • Keep a comfortable distance from others who are working or playing next to you. 
  • Wipe down any borrowed equipment like your keyboard and mouse.

If you need physical therapy, rehabilitation or wellness support, especially if you are working from home, please contact us so that you can keep well during this time. Click here to find out more about their work.