As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to make its way around the world, the list of companies ordering their employees to work from home grows by the day. For those of you who find yourself spending more time than usual at home, here are some ergonomics best practices that you can follow. While ergonomics analyses are often associated with tasks in our office or industrial work environments—either identifying improvements to set up our office correctly by adjusting our desks, chairs, and monitors, or looking into industrial tasks and developing engineering solutions to reduce awkward postures and high forces—these ergonomics principles and practices can also be applied in our home environment.
If we apply the definition of ergonomics (designing the workplace to match people’s capabilities) to our home environment, it means learning how to identify the awkward tasks we perform and making minor adjustments to the home setup to help reduce awkward back and upper limb postures. Here are a few best practices and improvement ideas to help you with your ergonomics at home.
Ergonomics in the Home Office
- When working from home, set up a designated working space on a hard and flat surface like a desk or table. Avoid working from a bed or couch.
- If working with a laptop, use a laptop stand and external keyboard to raise the height of the monitor and reduce awkward neck postures. If you do not have a laptop stand, hardcover books, binders, or rigid cardboard boxes can be used to raise the height.
- Use the 20-20-20 rule to give your eyes a break from the strain of looking at a monitor: every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
For more tips on how to work smarter from home, read these:
Ergonomics in the Laundry Room
- For front-load washers and dryers, raise the equipment using a stand or pedestal so that you can load and unload items with more neutral back postures—at or near waist height.
- Design your laundry room to incorporate additional counters and shelves for storing items like detergent and dryer sheets. These frequently used items are best stored between knee and shoulder height.
- When folding laundry, place the basket on a chair or bed instead of on the floor so that you can maintain more neutral back postures during this task.
- When packing luggage, use a bench or chair to raise your loading hand working height.
Ergonomics in the Kitchen
- When possible, keep your most frequently used and heavier appliances on the counters to reduce heavy lifting.
- When possible, store your most frequently used pots and pans in cabinets between knee and shoulder height.
- When organizing your spices, keep your most frequently used items at the front of the cabinet and at or below shoulder height.
- Store a step stool or ladder close to the kitchen to use when retrieving items stored beyond your normal reach.
Ergonomics for your Storage Racks
- Place the heaviest items, like large totes, equipment, and cases of water bottles, between knee and shoulder height. Store lighter-weight items below the knees or above the shoulders.
- Place the most frequently retrieved items between knee and shoulder height. Store infrequently retrieved items below the knees or above the shoulders.
There are many ways that you can positively change your home to encourage more neutral postures. By following these best practices and making minor adjustments, you’ll reduce your risk of getting injured when performing everyday tasks at home.