Getting the right ergonomic set up when working from home
Working from home has become the new reality for many businesses but for most people their home workspace is the kitchen bench or the lounge room couch - hardly the right setup for long-term success. Put simply, most workers have never invested in having the right working setup at home because ‘remote work’’ was something conducted a handful of times a year. Now that things have changed, and probably for the long-term, these small inconveniences, uncomforts and poor ergonomics can lead to big issues over time - trust us! For both business owners and staff - making sure you invest in having a safe and comfortable working environment at home is super important. Treating your home like your office and making the right investments will not only protect your health, but lead to better productivity and greater retention in the long-run.
When the Coronavirus first hit, as a business owner, you were probably run off your feet. You might have advised staff at short notice to start working remotely for a week or so until the virus played out. Now that things have become clearer, for most businesses, it’s a case of starting to work through the long-term ramifications of remote work. For some staff, they might actually be starting to think, “I’ve been working from home for three months and my next is starting to hurt. How did that happen?” Good ergonomic habits don’t happen out of luck, they require clear planning and investment, no matter the environment.
When working from home, most people are unlikely to have the right ergonomic setup as in most cases they just took it for granted at work. Most workplaces have invested in ensuring the right desks, monitors and safety protocols are in place. OH&S has become standard parlance in workplaces around the country. At home, things like a laptop with a small screen, no mouse, an uncomfortable wooden chair, and bad lighting, are all too common, and because businesses may have initially thought, “This will be over in a month or so”, most staff are still dealing with haphazard working conditions.
But there are relatively easy improvements that you can make; whether you have the advantages of a home office or are using a shared space. First up, take the time to invest in the right technology: a mouse, a proper office chair and a standalone keyboard or monitor. In most cases, you can easily find specially designed ergonomic versions of these items. We recommend making this investment if you are likely to be working from home regularly over the long-term. If these items are too expensive, common household items can be used as replacements. If you have a standalone keyboard, for example, you can use a stack of books to raise your laptop to the right height, with the keyboard below it. If you don’t have the right chair, practice working standing up and using an ironing board to adjust the height of your computer or keyboard.
The main objective with these changes, and with ergonomics in general, is to avoid putting unnecessary strain and tension on your back, neck and wrists. Whilst these issues may seem like small annoyances at the start, they can build up into larger strains, which can then easily become pain on our joints and muscles, and in the long-run these pains can lead to serious issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strains or finger, shoulder and back injuries. The last thing you want is your job leading to long-term health issues that impact your quality of life and time spent with kids and friends.
One of the major issues at the moment is that many people are sitting at the kitchen or dining room table as they video conference or draft emails. In most cases, these settings are great for eating, but they are not designed for working long hours. People may be slouched over, their feet might not be flat on the ground and people might be taking unnatural postures to accommodate for their small laptop keyboard. All of these issues can have major consequences in the long-term. The best way to handle this is to treat ergonomics seriously. Posture is key, make sure to move – including your eyes and get up and take regular breaks. It’s not just about your position while you sit, as well. Since you’re not in an office, there’s no more walking to a meeting room or over to talk to a colleague, or going down the road for lunch.
For business owners, it’s important you encourage your staff to take these precautions. You need to show strong leadership and put guidelines in place. For staff working in small apartments or sharing space with roommates, creating a full home office will not be realistic - but you can help staff with the proper equipment. If you have the budget, we would recommend you offer to cover some of these costs for your staff. They will appreciate it. The basic idea with these tips is to take small steps to protect your team from injury, pain and general dissatisfaction.
Getting remote work right can have a big impact on your business. It can improve work/life balance, increase productivity and improve retention, but a key aspect to this is making sure staff have the right ergonomic setup at home. If you plan on working remotely long-term, making sure your team is practicing the right behaviours at home is imperative. Otherwise that pain in the neck you could be feeling, might not be caused by poor posture, but by unsatisfied staff.