In modern times, due to factors like faster, more reliable internet and increased use of independent contractors by businesses, we have seen an increase in the number of people working from home. And whist ergonomic assessment and design has received plenty of attention in traditional workplaces, has the same focus occurred with home offices?
If you are fortunate enough to work from a home office, it essentially means that you are in control of how it is furnished and organised. So, in theory, you have free reign to design your office exactly to suit your needs, unlike in a traditional office.
However, the reality is that most people working from home invest little thought into the design of their workspaces, and subsequently fail to associate this with the discomfort and pain that they may inevitably experience.
Overcoming poor habits
The majority of people who work from home aren’t on fixed salaries – they tend to be highly driven and the constant timeframe pressures give them an easy excuse not to sort out a healthy working environment. Many people also have to juggle work and family responsibilities, also reducing the time they give to looking after themselves.
Working on the floor surrounded by papers, slumped in your old, comfy couch or seated on a bed may seem OK for a few hours, however if you were to continue this day in, day out for months or years on end you could do serious damage to your health. These postures put unnecessary pressure on your spine, muscles and joints, and prevent proper circulation to your lower limbs.
Instead it is vital to investigate and purchase an office chair that provides proper individualised support for your lower back and legs, and that can be adjusted to the right position for your work surface. Similarly a good monitor and adequate lighting will help to avoid unnecessary strain on your eyes, and a suitable keyboard and mouse will look after your upper limbs.
Compensating for lack of movement in a home office
Often a home office is set up in a small room or in a room that is also used for other purposes. The result is that many home offices are in cramped spaces, and in some cases there’s little need for you to walk much during the day. In a home office, your longest walk might be between your room and the kitchen next door.
The usual recommendation for a safe ergonomic workspace is to ensure that items you use often are within easy reach. In a home office it is equally important to position items so that you don’t have to twist or stretch unnaturally to reach them as well as to think about how you can get yourself to move more throughout the day.
You need to take regular breaks and to utilise this time to get up and move around. Other good tips are to stretch regularly and schedule an exercise break for the middle of the day, rather than working for a full day before heading outdoors or to the gym.
Home office set-up and assessments
Most people will set up their own home office and in doing so they may make poor choices when it comes to chairs, ergonomic workstations, monitors, keyboards and mice. Whilst it is true that you don’t need to spend a fortune to have the latest and greatest gadgets, ensuring that the items you do have are suitable for the work you perform and are set-up to reduce the stress placed on your body is vitally important.
A formal home office assessment should include the same steps as a typical office-based workstation assessment however will also consider other issues relevant to the local working environment.
- Is the office set up in a dedicated room or are you using the kitchen bench or dining room table?
- Are there general OHS items present (E.g. smoke alarm, fire extinguisher, first aid kit)?
- Are there any trip hazards (e.g. power-cords under the workstation) that may pose a risk?
- What is the situation in relation to emergency exits?
Ergo Experts can conduct a home office workstation assessment for you or any of your staff members – a report will be provided on completion of the assessment phase identifying any problems identified and relevant recommendations to ensure the safety of you or your employee – Ergo Experts will also help to source and supply appropriate equipment if required.
Please contact us to discuss your requirements – 0409 512 434 or email firstname.lastname@example.org