The Ergonomically Correct Home Office

By Grace Wang and Dr. Chris E. Stout for  ATI Physical Therapy

home-officeWhether or not you realize it, you probably have a home office. You might not telecommute, and you might not have a corner, L-shaped desk or a computer with dual monitors, but most likely, there is a place in your home where you browse the web, check Facebook, answer emails, update your blog, or write the next chapter of your 200,000 word fan-fiction novel. There is a place in your home where you spend a lot of time sitting down, facing a screen. You’re thinking about it right now, aren’t you?

The fact is, people are spending more time in front of screens than ever before. According to a recent BBC article, adults in the UK are now spending more time on devices than sleep, and the New York Times reports that statistics in the U.S. are similar. Studies have shown, and it’s not too difficult to believe, that people are not just dependent on their devices, but also emotionally attached to the connectivity that they provide.

“But,” some might say, “I’m not wasting time on my device. I’m forced to be in front of my screen for work/school.” This may very well be true, but whether screen time is due to stacks upon stacks of paperwork or due to an unhealthy emotional attachment to connectivity with the virtual world, the result, at least for the human body’s ergonomic health, is the same. If we can’t tear ourselves away from our screens (for whatever reason), the very least we can do is make sure that our “home office” allows for the body posture that is least harmful to our health.

The Chair
Mayo Clinic says that the height of a chair should allow for feet to rest on the floor and for knees to be level with hips. A good chair also provides lumbar/lower back support.

The Phone
Mayo Clinic also says that if one regularly uses a phone at the same time as a computer, the phone should have a headset so as to protect the neck from strain.

The Monitor
The same article indicates that the monitor should be an arm’s length away and the top of the screen should be just below eye level.

Posture
No matter how flawlessly a workspace is set up, joint health still relies heavily on correct body posture. In other words, we can easily find ways to sit in our ergonomically correct home office that are not ergonomically correct. Three few helpful posture rules are:

  1. Don’t slouch. It sounds obvious, but still difficult to remember!
  2. Center your body in front of your monitor/keyboard.
  3. Keep your thighs and knees level with your hips.

Take Breaks
Taking a break to move around, even if it’s just to stand up and walk or stretch, is not only good for the body, but it’s been proven to increase the ability to focus, to decrease fatigue, and to improve mood.

So, do your best to separate yourself from your computer, phone, and television when possible, and when you can’t find enough willpower to say no to Facebook, or when deadlines are approaching, do your body a favor and relax or work in a position and location that optimize skeletal and muscular health.

Our Approach
A great way to improve health (and productivity) is to incorporate a culture of fitness. ItATI 300x250 does not need be anything too challenging to get things going. At ATI Physical Therapy’s Corporate Offices we have a fully equipped fitness center on the premises and encourage all to take advantage of it. We also do a simple and easy set of exercises each day at 1:55pm. We call it the “ATI-5.” It is five minutes of five one minute exercises that most anyone can do in any attire at their work area or office. At 1:55pm each day employees hold a plank position for one minute, then do one minute’s worth of squats, followed by a minute of in place lunges, then a minute of wall (or regular) push-ups, and ending with a one minute set of tricep dips using the edge of their desk. The comradery and mutual encouragement helps to make everyone feel more comfortable than if they were to do it one their own or without having the corporate recognition that it’s a fine thing to be doing.

For more information on avoiding pain at your desk and more quick tips on office ergonomics click here.