Tips for comfortably working from home
Over the past month, a large number of employees have been requested to work from home in order to support the Government’s advice to combat the spread of Coronavirus. Many employees will be used to occasional home working but for others, this may be the first time they have done so.
This guide is designed to assist employees to create the best possible workstation set-up whilst working at home to prevent developing musculoskeletal discomfort.
Most office workers are likely to be familiar with the requirement for their Employer to conduct workstation assessments in the office to ensure that the workstation is both safe and comfortable for them to use. Whilst these assessments are also appropriate for employees who regularly work from home, the Health and Safety Executive have confirmed that a full workstation assessment is not legally required for people working at home temporarily because of Coronavirus. That’s not to say however, that working in a sensible way isn’t important and this guide has been designed to facilitate the employee temporarily during the next few weeks/months until they can return to the office. The aim being to prevent any unnecessary musculoskeletal problems associated with adopting a less than ideal posture over a prolonged period.
It is recognised that employees’ set-up at home varies greatly from one person to the next. Also, what the employer is able to offer individual employees in terms of help to provide additional equipment also varies. For instance, some employees may already have a designated office with a workstation set-up that mirrors the office environment whilst others may have little additional room and equipment aside from a kitchen table and a laptop.
There is little doubt that, in the ideal situation, the best possible set up is as above:-
Note the adjustable chair, giving good support in the low back (lumbar region), with the chair raised to ensure there is a right angle at the elbows and the feet are firmly on the floor. Also the top of the screen is positioned at eye level to prevent any kinking of the neck.
However, if an adjustable chair, desk and monitor is not available then there are several things that can be done to help improve your posture and comfort when working at home:
- Work at a desk or table with adequate leg room so that you can sit close to your monitor or laptop without any twisting of the legs.
- If you have a screen/monitor do use it but if you are working from a laptop then plug in, and use, a separate keyboard and mouse. This will then allow you to position your laptop so that the top of the screen is at eyelevel – this will avoid you crouching over your laptop. If you don’t have a laptop riser to achieve this, then use some books to raise your laptop up.
- Position the keyboard and mouse directly in front of you within easy reach so that your elbows are kept close to your body, ideally at right angles. Avoid stretching out your arm to reach the mouse.
- Use an adjustable chair if you have one. If not, use a hand towel or small cushion for extra lower back support. If your chair is too low, sit on a cushion to raise your seat height so that you can achieve a right angles at your elbows.
- If standing (e.g. at a breakfast bar) keep your legs, body, neck and head approximately in line and vertical – don’t slouch, lean or twist to the side and once again your elbows should be at right angles.
- Make sure the lighting in the room is adequate to avoid headaches and eyestrain.
- Break up all long spells of screen work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) and plan your day to avoid long spells of working on your computer.
- Stand up while talking on the telephone and do a few stretching exercises whilst talking.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- One last point – do avoid being tempted to work whilst lying on the bed. The bed will not give adequate support to prevent musculoskeletal discomfort and keeping the bedroom for relaxation and sleeping rather than working is likely to assist with your sleeping patterns.
Whilst this guidance is primarily about promoting a good posture whilst working from home, below are some additional key points to promote overall mental wellbeing during this period.
- Keep to a routine and, where you can, start and stop work at fixed times and maintain boundaries between work and personal life.
- Use the telephone and conference tools to maintain regular contact with colleagues and the team.
- Try to get outside for some exercise and fresh air whilst, of course, adhering to social distancing guidelines.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals and try not to drink alcohol or smoke excessively. Use this opportunity to promote your mental wellbeing by adopting relaxation methods and good sleep patterns.
Lincoln Occupational Health would be happy to give further advice to employers and employees to assist during this period, whether advice is needed on ergonomics, mental health or fitness to work issues. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.