How Ergonomically Healthy Is Your Home Workspace?

How ergonomically healthy is your home workspace? A new study has identified some key ergonomic issues that workers are experiencing when working from the comfort of their home.

Previously on the Office Supplies Blog, we’ve discussed how ergonomic office design may need to change, but a new study by the University of Cincinnati has now shone a spotlight onto some key ergonomic issues that we could be facing by setting up a workstation at home instead during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The research, published in July, provides an ergonomic assessment of 843 university faculty and staff members’ home workspaces and how the issues they may be facing with potential injuries, strains and body stresses could also be of concern for workers in other industries too.

Ergonomic Issues by the Numbers

Through conducting the survey and gaining responses from participants via email, the University of Cincinnati were able to determine how ergonomically healthy people considered their current home workstations.

The top issues that participants reported were:

A lack of lumbar support with their current chair – 73%
• No back support being used during extended periods of sitting – 69%
• Seats being too rigid/tough and causing back problems – 63%
• Chair/seat being too high or too low in front of the computer – 43%

In addition, some of the other ergonomic issues which were able to be identified via answers in the survey included poor lighting, having to use surfaces that contained hard or sharp edges to work on and incorrect placements of a monitor, with some commenting that they felt there monitor was positioned too high or too off to the side.

Lead author of the study and associate professor in the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati, Kermit Davis, came to the conclusion that regular 30 minute breaks throughout the working day holds the key to minimizing the risk of injury.

He explains:

“The body doesn’t like static postures continually.

You don’t want to do all sitting or all standing all the time.

You want to alter your position and change it up throughout the day”.

Solutions to Staying Ergonomically Healthy When Using a Home Workspace

For those struggling with ergonomic issues when working for a home environment, there are several solutions that the journal, Ergonomics in Design, suggests.

It recommends:

To address low seat height, place a pillow on your seat.

For better lumbar support, use a rolled-up towel or pillow behind your back in your chair.

To achieve better back posture, try moving your chair closer to your desk or table.

If you need to raise your laptop monitor to eye level, use some unused books or a sturdy box to place it on top of.

Should you be using a standing workstation, you should ensure your monitor is eye level, your keyboard is placed so that your forearms remain parallel to the ground and that you use a working surface that is soft or features rounded edges.

Speaking on how the needs for ergonomically healthy home workspaces will only become more and more important during the current COVID-19 pandemic for not just employees but for employers too, Dr. Susan Hallbeck PHD, a doctor and president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, expands on this by commenting:

“I think companies are going to re-assess what can and can’t be done from home – office space is expensive.

I think that’s going to be something that comes out of this pandemic.”

She adds:

“A reassessment of what it means to work from home… and what a home office looks like.

People are going to have to learn how to set up their ergonomic settings themselves.

“You can’t be productive when you’re in pain”.

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Sam Rose