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Top tips to make your home workstation more ergonomic

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When a flexible workspace has become the new norm, it’s important that your space is as ergonomic as possible.

Dr. Melinda Ricci, Supervising Clinician at Murdoch University Chiropractic Clinic, gives us important suggestions to correctly set up a dedicated work space to ensure your posture and wellbeing is cared for. 

A new workstation can be cost effective

The novelty factor of working from home does wear off (yes, that includes working in pyjamas) and it can actually be a challenge, both mentally and physically, if you’re not equipped.

Struggling to keep up your mental wellbeing in isolation? Check out our tips for managing stress and anxiety in COVID-19

But Dr Ricci advises you don’t need the best or most expensive equipment to foster a healthy posture – and you can even use items around the home to build your new ergonomic workstation.

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“Consider bringing out those dusty books or sturdy boxes that you may have lying around your home to help build your workstation and elevate your laptop screen to eye level. Tissue boxes, or toilet paper rolls for that matter, aren’t recommended as they create an uneven level – which is what you don’t want.”

“Alternatively, you can easily stack milk crates, connect them with zip ties and place a wooden plank or an old door on top to create a standing desk.”

If you’re working on a laptop, Dr Ricci recommends that the most affordable tools you can purchase to help with your new ergonomic workspace are a keyboard and mouse.

“To reduce your chance of injuries, your keyboard should sit 10cm to 25cm from the edge of your desk. This amount of space will provide an appropriate amount of forearm support and will stop you from reaching, which fosters neck and shoulder pain. You should also position your mouse as close to the keyboard as possible, or just over the number keypad to reduce wrist extension.”

If you’re struggling to purchase anything else, these tools are essential in decreasing discomfort and increasing productivity, she says.

Set your desk, set your posture

The key message here is to not underestimate the importance of a good desk for your posture. The ideal height of your sit-down desk is largely dependent on your body type, however guidelines suggest a height of between 68cm-72cm, says Dr Ricci.

A workstation that is too high will cause your arms and shoulders to elevate and can lead to discomfort and muscle fatigue. If it’s too low you may lean forward into a slumped posture, causing much the same.”

Dr Ricci says that your desk height should allow you to sit with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and wrists slightly extended upwards.

“If you prefer a standing desk, the principles should be kept the same - only your desk should be higher.”

Take a supporting seat 

Yes, it may be tempting to sit on your couch or bed, but Dr Ricci says you will slump, putting strain on your back and neck.

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“A good chair will provide comfort, support for your back and can help beat fatigue. Office workers tend to spend more than six hours a day sitting – so your desk chair really is an incredibly valuable tool for your wellbeing and concentration.”

When searching for the right chair you should ensure that your knees are bent to at least 90 degrees, and your feet are comfortably resting flat on the floor - or on a footrest for shorter people, advises Dr Ricci. 

“Ideally, it’s worth purchasing an adjustable chair as you are able to alter the height to your body. Inclining the seat pan forward 10-15 degrees and altering the angle of your back rest to between 90 and 120 degrees can help reduce the pressure on your lower back.”

She says if you’re using a dining room chair, make sure you make a concerted effort to bring the chair in, under your desk.

“As most dining room chairs don’t have wheels, people tend to stay positioned and lean forward instead of bringing the chair in closer. This posture can overstretch your back and may result in discomfort or pain.”

Dr Ricci says that it’s important to ensure that you sit in a healthy way, which includes sitting in a natural position, to limit risks of damage to your body.

Ensure that you position the tools around you correctly, avoid slouching and do take micro-breaks to move around.”

Don’t ignore the benefit of an extra monitor

Working off just a laptop for a long period of time is not fun. The reality is you’re hunched over the tiny screen trying to be productive. If you want to see a positive difference in performance, it is valuable investing in a second monitor.

In terms of positioning your main screen, Dr Ricci says it should be centered with the top of the screen at eye level or less than 25 degrees below. 

“It is recommended that your monitor is placed at 63cm to 85cm from the edge of your desk. If the computer is placed too close, you can experience visual fatigue. Another helpful accessory is a laptop riser - an angled platform to rest your laptop on which elevates the screen, reducing the strain on your neck and shoulder muscles.”

Feeling fatigued? Get moving!

After you have taken these suggestions into account, remember that there are other strategies to reduce fatigue and remain injury-free, says Dr Ricci.

“Get moving! Whether it’s playing with your dog, going for a walk around the block or stretching, you should be ensuring that you take regular breaks throughout the day. Ideally, you’re looking at 3-5 minutes per half hour. Alternatively, you can always swap your chair for a fit ball, exercise bike or even a treadmill for half hour blocks each day.”

Dr Ricci says that during this time of uncertainty, including when workers can return to the office, it is important to prioritise your safety.

“What you don’t want is an influx of injuries, such as back and neck pain, that are in fact easily avoidable. Yes, it might take a bit of extra effort to set up a desk, but in the long run you’re going to limit the risk of long-term industry and protect your physical health and wellbeing,” she says.

Require more information? Contact the Murdoch Chiro Clinic or phone 9360 1202 and speak to a professional who can provide ergonomic advice and answer questions. 
Posted on:

29 May 2020

Topics:

Health

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