Ergonomics
March 31, 2020 | by The Polyclinic

Blog Post Written By: Kaja Potter-Rudinow, PTA, CLT-UE

You are probably reading this from home, socially distanced as is required by many businesses in our state.

Thank you for doing your part in the fight to beat the coronavirus pandemic.

If you are working from home, you also have probably by now spent a few days slumped on your couch, feet on a coffee table, with your laptop on your knees for eight hours straight.

Your neck might be feeling sore, your back kind of achy, and half your fingers are tingling and numb. (But your dog is pleased as punch to be hanging out with you all day. Your cat – not so much.)

Time to set up a real home work station! And it won’t require any expensive purchases or fancy furniture.

Your goal is to be sitting in good posture with no effort, well supported, with your keyboard and monitor both at the proper height.

Start with the chair. Find a chair in your house that you like. Kitchen chairs often work pretty well. Can you sit with your bottom all the way to the back of the chair? Do your feet rest flat on the floor? If you relax 10% of your 100% perfect posture, does the chair back stop you from collapsing any further? Try putting a rolled towel in the small of your back for more posture support. And a box under your feet if your feet can’t quite reach the floor.

Next you need a work surface. Look for something that is about the same height as your elbows when you are sitting in that good chair you found. There must be room underneath it for your legs! Kitchen table, desk, plank lying across two bookcases or end tables, workbench, etc. This is where your keyboard will rest, placed along the edge closest to you so that you are not reaching forward to have your fingers on the keys. Shoulders relaxed, upper arms hanging loosely at your sides, all you need to do is bend your elbows and wiggle your fingers to type. Your hands shouldn’t be bent too far up or down as you type.

Now add the monitor. Proper monitor height can vary depending on a few factors. Our relaxed gaze rests at about a 10 to 15 degree angle downward from horizontal. Here are a couple rules of thumb and fit tricks.

  1. Sit in your chair with your fingers resting on your keyboard. Close your eyes and settle in. Open your eyes. As your eyes open, they should be gazing at the center or slightly below the center of your monitor.
  2. Try aligning the top of your monitor with your eyebrows.
  3. If you wear multifocal or progressive lenses, adjust the monitor so the center or slightly below center is in focus when you are sitting in a supported good posture.

You shouldn’t have to tilt your head up or down nor turn your head left or right to see the monitor.

Be creative with adjusting your monitor. If it sits too low, put books under it to bring it up higher. If you are using a laptop, consider getting a second keyboard and placing the laptop up on a stack of books for proper viewing height.

Adjusting the monitor properly can have a large impact on your posture - which in turn has a large impact on your comfort!

Ergonomics 1>

If purchasing devices is an option, consider an inexpensive stand and accessory keyboard for your laptop.

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The body doesn’t like staying in any one position for more than about 20 minutes. Working from home you may not have your usual interruptions and breaks, so be sure to get up every half hour or so for a three-minute break and do a bit of stretching.

And on your lunch break, take a little walk around your block. Keep that six feet of distance between you and other people, and cough or sneeze into your elbow. Wash your hands for 20 seconds when you get home. Follow the CDC hand-washing instructions.

Proper workplace ergonomics and regular stretch breaks are important in preventing back, neck, shoulder, and arm pain. If your workplace is now your home, take time to make sure your work environment works best for you.

Follow The Polyclinic Physical Therapy and Hand Therapy YouTube Channel.

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