From the right chair to taking enough breaks: 7 ways to make working from home pain-free

Here's how to ensure your home workspace is ergonomically sound

A smartphone sits next to a cup of espresso on the desk of a home office in an arranged photograph taken in Bern, Switzerland, on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a seismic wave of health awareness and anxiety, which is energizing a new category of virus-fighting tech and apps. Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg
Powered by automated translation

If you are not careful about how you set up your space, working from home can literally become a pain in the neck.

If your current work routine involves being slumped over your kitchen table, slouched on the sofa or perhaps even laying prostrate in bed, you may well end with neck, shoulder and back pain, or sore wrists and fingers.

Here are some ways to ensure that your work environment is healthy, ergonomic and productive.

Your chair is everything

First off, invest in a good task chair, advises Pallavi Dean, founder and creative director of Dubai design firm Roar. “Vitra, Herman Miller, Haworth – there are so many great brands out there," she says.

You should opt for a solid, sturdy chair that is adjustable in height, with a separate backrest that can be modified to support your lower back. The seat should be short enough that you get full back support, without the front of the seat digging into the back of your legs. There should be about two inches of clearance between the back of your knees and the front of the seat. The seat should be well padded and slope slightly downwards, to ensure your hips are angled slightly above your knees. Your feet should be flat on the floor – use a footrest or a stack of books if required.

Adjust armrests so your arms gently rest on them with your shoulders relaxed. If you cannot get your hands on a proper work chair, use pillows to pad your seat, offer back support and unsure that you are positioned at the right height. A rolled up towel can also offer lumbar support. Be conscious of your posture. Engage your stomach muscles and keep your shoulders relaxed, but not slumped.

Get the right balance

To switch things up, invest in a wellness ball. "Technogym has a great wellness ball that is made for office environments and exercise environments, so it doubles up as both,” says Dean. Balancing on the ball will force you to engage your core and help stop you slouching.

Hands on

Wrists should remain straight while typing. It is worth investing in a palm support to ensure this happens. Position your mouse close to your keyboard to ensure you are not overreaching. The same applies to other things you will be using regularly, like your phone. “If you frequently talk on the phone and type or write at the same time, place your phone on speaker or use a headset rather than cradling the phone between your head and neck,” advises the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit organisation committed to clinical practice, education and research.

Screen time

Position your computer at least an arm’s length away. Try to align your screen with your line of vision. “If you wear bifocals, lower the monitor an additional 1 to 2 inches for more comfortable viewing,” advises the Mayo Clinic. Use a desk light to ensure that your work space is well illuminated, but try to reduce direct glare on your screen.

Shift to a standing position

Try to also find a surface that you can stand and work from, and mix things up through the day. “Agility is a big concept in workplace design and you should also do it at home. Try a kitchen counter, a breakfast counter, even a bookshelf that is the right height. Maybe do some of your calls while you are standing up,” suggests Dean.

The trouble with laptops

Laptops are not designed to be used for extended periods of time. Either the screen will be too low and cause you to strain your neck – or the keyboard will be too high and cause pressure on your wrists and arms. Ideally, you should get a separate keyboard and mouse, and place these in the appropriate positions. If you will be using your laptop, try to position it so the top edge of the screen is just below your eye height.

Take regular breaks

Even if your set-up is ergonomically sound, listen listen to your body. Get up, stretch and walk around at regular intervals.