Ergonomics Expert on Working from Home

March 17, 2020

Dr. Chris Robl is our subject-matter expert on wellness. He holds a Doctorate of Physical Therapy and is passionate about wellness.

Working from Home During Covid-19?

This coronavirus is changing the way we do business and is changing the space where you work. If you’re working from home for the first time, then you’re not alone. Many people are experiencing the same things you are, and with the new stress of working in a new environment comes new pains and aches that are preventable. Do yourself a favor and set yourself up for success from the beginning. 

If you’ve started slouching on the couch while working, overreaching at the kitchen table, or are rounding forward with your head leaning towards your computer screen, then we should talk about your new office space. Our workstations were not made for us specifically, they were made for anyone to us. Dr. Chris Robl, owner of Physio Room, has a helpful video to show you how to make your desk adapt to you, and not the other way around.

Set up your workstation

1. Chair

Most desks are 30 inches tall and will be too high or too short for you, so adjust your chair height to accommodate. Set the chair height to allow your elbows to be flexed at 90° when resting on the top of the desk. If you have to raise your chair up too high, then you may need a footrest to keep your feet flat on the floor. Having your feet flat on a surface allows your knees and hips to maintain a 90° bend as well. This allows for a more natural position that will not overly stress your lumbar spine and help prevent low back pain. 

The chair height dictates whether or not your elbows are at 90°.
The footrest is what dictates whether or not your hips and knees are at 90°. 

2.  Monitors

We have all seen that coworker rounded forward like the hunchback of Notre Dame with their chin and head protruding forward and getting sucked into their computer screen like a scene out of Poltergeist. Don’t do that.

If you can set your monitor up at eye level and keep the monitor within an arm's distance, then you will be able to maintain normal postural alignment. This will reduce the amount of repetitive strain on your neck muscles and allow you to avoid unnecessary headaches and neck pain. 

Pro Tip: Keep Monitor at Eye Level

If you are using a laptop, then it would be a good idea to use a stand to elevate the screen to eye level. This will require the use of an external keyboard. If your screen is too low or too high, this will create a fulcrum point that will overly stress the cervical spine and create neck pain. This can lead to increased nerve irritation as well as numbness and tingling.

If your work requires two monitors, then position yourself to be in the middle of both monitors so you can use your eyes to scan left and right without having to turn your head significantly to one side or the other. Often, when office workers require physical therapy for neck pain, it’s because they make the mistake of keeping one monitor directly in front of them and having the other monitor to either side, which results in constant head-turning throughout the day.  This leads to repetitive strain on neck tissues and an increased risk for irritation and injury.

3. Peripherals

Make sure to keep peripherals like your mouse and phone close by so that you can rotate your arm with your elbow at your side to reach them. This prevents repetitive shoulder motions that can result in strain. 

If you are going to be on the phone frequently, it’s recommended that you purchase a quality headset. Otherwise, you should hold the phone in your non-dominant hand so that you are able to write information down with your dominant hand. This allows you to write without having your shoulder shrug up into your ear, which in turn helps you avoid unnecessary stress and strain on the nerves and joints in your neck.

4.  Create A Movement Rich Environment

Every 10 to 15 minutes, you will naturally slip back into a default posture no matter how perfect you set up your desk. We were not designed to sit static for extended periods of time. Consider taking small breaks to move and stay loose.

Here are 4 desk exercises to perform throughout the day:

#1. Chin Tucks x15 reps and one 30 second hold

#2. Upper Trapezius Stretch – x 60 seconds each side

#3. Scapular Retraction – 15 reps

#4. Pelvic Tilt – x15 rep

Don’t forget to move throughout the day and drink plenty of water. It’s easy to orget these things when your routine is out of whack. Use our tips to craft a new daily at-home routine for yourself. 

For more on staying well at home, check out:

Balanced Meal for Any Age Infographic | Nutrition for Healthy Aging