10 Essential Hacks for Setting Up an Ergonomic Office Anywhere You WorkNov 23, 2023
When you can work anywhere, your aches and pains can follow you anywhere, too. With the rise of hybrid workplaces, employers and employees should consider the impact that transitioning between work and home can have on good ergonomic habits. Whether you are working in the office, at a rotating workstation, or at a home office, it is important to have both a proper work environment and the tools to maintain proper body positioning.
Here are ten hacks for setting up your office ergonomically so you can have a safe and healthy workplace, no matter where you work.
1. Make sure you have all the necessary equipment (hint: some might be less obvious).
When making the transition from work to home, remember to bring home the necessary equipment for you to be able to complete the job. This may seem obvious, but some tools may be overlooked. Without an external keyboard and mouse, HD cables, power cords, wireless device dongles, batteries, or vision accommodation software, you may not be able to set up your home workstation efficiently (or may not even be able to complete the essential demands of the job).
2. Separate your working space from your leisure space.
While it may be tempting to work from bed or the couch, these surfaces are not conducive to the best ergonomic positioning and should not used for long periods of time. They can also blur the distinction between work time and leisure time, which can impact productivity and mental health. If possible, try to set up your home workstation at a desk in a room with a door or other physical barrier.
3. Reduce audio and visual distractions.
If you cannot set up your workstation in a dedicated room, you may find that family members, children, or other housemates also working from home can make it difficult to focus. Strategies to reduce distractions may include noise-cancelling headphones or setting clear boundaries with household members about focus time.
4. Remove desk clutter and keep items within reaching distance.
Distracting desk clutter can impact productivity, and it can also make it difficult to access the tools you do need. Tools that you use on a regular basis should be within reaching distance and should be positioned to avoid constant neck rotation or bending. Consider the placement of physical calendars, paper holders, phones, paper/documents, etc. to prevent awkward positioning. The less clutter on your desk, the easier it will be to maintain this positioning.
5. Set up your workstation near natural sunlight or under overhead lights.
Positioning your desk near natural sunlight can help ensure that your workspace is well lit (it can also improve your mood!) If a window is not available or you will be working when the sun goes down, ensure that your space is well-lit with overhead lights and/or task lights so that you can see your workspace with ease. Make sure to avoid harsh light on your screen. This will help prevent eyestrain and awkward body positioning from leaning closer to your screen.
6. Go wireless/hide cords.
Cords can be a huge pain for the hybrid worker. If they aren’t stored properly, untangling them can be time consuming, not to mention the difficulty with finding available wall outlets. They can also be a real tripping hazard if not neatly tucked away and can even cause ergonomic concerns if the cords are too short. Consider going wireless to ensure your keyboard, mouse, and headset can be positioned in the most optimal way in your workspace.
7. Designate specific tasks for the devices you will be using.
When working from home, you may be working from a laptop, mobile device, or tablet. Depending on your available tools, consider what tasks are best suited for certain devices. While your phone may be useful for reading emails on the go, joining conference calls, and voice inputting, devices with bigger screens are recommended for reading longer documents, taking notes, and creating documents. If you are on a rotating work-from-home schedule, consider what tasks might need to be completed in the office rather than at home if the necessary devices are not available.
8. Limit touchscreen and mobile use.
If you do have to use touchscreen or mobile devices at home, limit static postures to 10 minutes or less. Using devices in your hands and lap can create awkward neck bending. Frequent use of mobile devices can create repetitive strain injury of the thumbs or eyestrain. For mobile devices, you can also consider using hands-free devices for phone calls, alternating between fingers and thumbs to type, maintaining a neutral upright spinal posture when using the device, using a stylus, and using an external keyboard for typing, especially for those requiring extensive inputting.
9. Consider long-term equipment for long-term remote work.
If you will be working at home regularly, consider long-term equipment you may need to ensure that you can remain healthy. For example, you may require an ergonomic chair, a desk, a second monitor, laptop riser, etc. to achieve proper positioning. Ask your employer if they can provide you with equipment or get help from an Occupational Therapist to assess your unique work environment. Learn more about ergonomic assessments or make a referral for as assessment here.
10. Create opportunities for movement breaks.
Take regular movement breaks throughout the day. Without the daily walk to the car/office, watercooler breaks, and lunchtime gatherings, you might be moving less than usual. Consider scheduling micro breaks every half an hour or creating natural opportunities for movement. For example, try taking walking meetings when you are on the phone or distance your desk from tools you might need throughout the day, like a printer.
How Can Gowan Consulting Help?
Gowan Consulting specializes in the area of Occupational Therapy. We have Occupational Therapists all over Canada that can assist with making your workplace healthier. We can assist with anything from ergonomic assessments to mental health to workplace accommodations and return to work. Make a referral or contact us to see how we can help with your workplace concerns.