April 2017 Newsletter:

Making Your Home Office, Feel Like Home

If you’re lucky, your office is set up so that it’s right for you: your chair fits you like a glove, your headset is in easy reach, and your shoulders are relaxed as you type. But what about those days when you work from home? Or when you’re on the road? Suddenly, your home office stops feeling like home and maybe your body starts feeling the heat. Setting up your home office is just as important as the one you go to every day, and can be done without too much trouble or expense.

The trouble with working from home is that often, you may find yourself working on a laptop. This presents a challenge: either your laptop is down low so that your shoulder and wrists are comfortable but your neck is craning down to see the screen, or your neck is straight but your shoulders are shrugged/raised (or both; see photo).

The first step to setting up a comfortable home office is to ensure a comfortable working height: for office work, this means the height of your elbow when you’re sitting with your feet flat on the floor. Working at this height should allow your shoulders to hang relaxed by your side, and your wrists to be flat. The simplest and cheapest way to promote this is to get an external keyboard and mouse: now you can move your laptop to a better height to keep your neck neutral while maintaining a comfortable arm position. Depending on the height of your table or desk, you may want to consider building a small stand for your mouse and keyboard (three simple 2” x 10” planks should suffice, no carpentry skills required!)

Next, you’ll want to set up your screen. A laptop being placed on a table or desk usually results in you tilting your head forward, which should be avoided. To do this, all you need is a simple stack of printer paper (or old biomechanics textbooks). This will raise your screen up to a comfortable viewing height and allow your neck to remain neutral. Alternatively, if you have an external monitor then you can hook your laptop up to that and turn off your laptop screen. Just remember, the goal is to have the top of your screen in line with your eyes. The chair is also an important piece of equipment for the home office. While an ergonomic office chair is the ideal choice, this is not always an option. Using a couch cushion or pillow to support your lower back may be an improvement from your straight-backed dining chair.

Home offices may be challenging to set up, but there are also many ways to improve your posture without breaking the bank. They also provide an opportunity to exercise your creativity and practice problem solving. Don’t be afraid to try different solutions until you find one that makes your home office, feel like home.

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