With millions of us now working from home, with all the wonders of all-day pajamas and meetings without pants, it’s easy to assume comfy couches and checking email in bed mean there’s no chance of carpal tunnel and other work-related repetitive strain injuries.
While there are elaborate guidelines for workplaces set by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, you might be surprised to know they have guidelines for home offices as well. So even though your home might seem more comfortable than your office, there are still important considerations to make sure you don’t cause yourself an otherwise avoidable injury.
With the prospect of several more weeks — or possibly months — of working from home, you should take a careful look at your home office space for warning signs of future and painful injuries. Here are just three to help reduce the possibility of strain and undue fatigue.
A better chair: Container Store Bungee Chair
Rigid chairs for kitchen and dining room tables are not ideal for 8-plus hour work sessions. At this point, you’ve probably figured that out. But if not, here’s what OSHA has to say: “A chair that’s well-designed and appropriately adjusted is an essential element of a safe and productive computer workstation. A good chair provides necessary support to the back, legs, buttocks and arms, while reducing exposures to awkward postures, contact stress and forceful exertions.”
When considering an office chair, one that’s highly adjustable is key. We’re all built a little different, so when it comes to ergonomics, one size most definitely doesn’t fit all.
For a good balance of comfort, adjustibility and cost, try this “bungee chair” from the Container Store. Available for under $200, this chair recently found a place in the home office of CNET Executive Editor John Falcone, following a recommendation from a friend. He says it’s incredibly comfortable — and height-adjustable, too.
Ergonomic keyboard: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard
These keyboards look weird and the first time you use one, you’re probably not going to like it. There will be a learning period to get back up to your normal typing speed. However, it can greatly reduce the potential for certain wrist problems. Their odd design positions your hands in a more natural straight line, instead of being bent as when you’re using a traditional keyboard.
According to OSHA: “Alternative keyboards help maintain neutral wrist postures, but available research does not provide conclusive evidence that using these keyboards prevents discomfort and injury.” Which is to say, not everyone is going to need one, nor will they solve potential problems for everyone. However, those of us who love them, love them. If your wrists hurt after a long day, one of these could help.
Adjustable desk: Jarvis Standing Desk
If you’re expecting to work from home for a while, an adjustable desk is worth considering. Note, not specifically a standing desk, but a motorized desk that gives you the option to stand for part of the day, sit for part of the day, and adjust its height to make sure you’re comfortable to reduce strain on your back, shoulders and so on. Standing desks were all the rage a few years ago, though in some cases you’re just trading one problem for another. Standing — as anyone who does it for their job all day can tell you — isn’t great either. There are several things to consider before you make the switch.
Why consider this at all? Desk height can be a crucial part of your overall comfort, from the height and position of your arms and shoulders, to how far you have to reach to get to your keyboard and mouse and more. “Desk surfaces that are too high or too low may lead to awkward postures, such as extended arms to reach the keyboard, and raised shoulders,” OSHA says.
Build your health & fitness knowledge
Sign up here to get the latest health & fitness updates in your inbox every week!