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When I asked if your home office is killing you – I’m not asking if your dog drives you nuts because he barks at every delivery truck going down the street, or your children need food/homework help/or fight every time you get on a Zoom. I’m asking if you need a better desk, computer set up, chair, or lighting?

I’m sure many of you are like me – your work told you a couple days ahead that you would be working from home – you needed to gather your laptop, monitor, key board, cords, mouse, any files, resources — and take them home. At the time you probably thought you would be working from home for a couple weeks – maybe a month? Now approximately 12 weeks later – they are still encouraging work from home and are suggesting that it will likely continue in part for at least the next several months.  At this point you may start to think a little more about what you need to make this home-office a little more ergonomic if you haven’t already.

To make your home office more ergonomic:

  • Use a separate key board, monitor, and mouse – not just your laptop. The top of your monitor should be at or slightly below eye level. If you need to, raise your laptop screen with a box or books.standing desk with raised monitor
  • Use an actual office chair or make your chair more comfortable by adding a cushion on the seat and rolling a towel or pillow to create lower-back support.
  • Use the 20-20-20 Rule to prevent digital eye strain. This is good at your home or work office. For every 20 minutes you spend looking at a computer monitor, spend 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away. Locate your monitor about an arm’s length away to help as well. Consider adjusting brightness and using night light settings to reduce exposure to blue lights.
  • While it is fun to sit on the porch in a lounger on a beautiful day with your laptop or curl up on the couch with a blanket on a rainy day – limit the time that you do this. Having your legs in a horizontal position for an extended period of time can lead to muscle numbness.
  • Take breaks – just like you do at your regular office. Get up every 30 minutes and walk to get a drink, take a bathroom break, or just do a lap down the hall.
  • Find time to stand up – stand when talking on the phone, for part of your daily Zoom, or when listening to the next training you need to complete. Consider moving your laptop to the kitchen counter (and raise it with a box) so you can stand for a bit each day.
  • Support your feet with a box or books if they do not touch the ground when working. This will reduce stress on your spine.

Many things you can do to make your home office better use objects you already have around the house. If you need to ask for approval to purchase an external keyboard, go ahead, it is important to your health. Check to see if your workplace has an ergonomics department – many companies do, where they can provide products and even funds to improve your office. Take advantage of the good things about working in a home office too. After all you can throw a great lunch in the slow cooker in the morning, walk the dog during your break, wear flip-flops every day, and even open the window for fresh air and sunshine.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer:  Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.

Photo credit: Misty Harmon

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