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Sheltering Arms Blog

The Right Way to Set Up Your Home Office


Posted on: April 7, 2020 by Jenny Lankford

By: Roxanne Williams, PT, DPT, CWCE

Couches, recliners and beds covered in pillows oh my! Earlier this year, I wrote about Proper Desk Alignment to Avoid Injury in your workplace. After working tirelessly to perfect your office set up, the rules have now changed for many and your immediate future may include working from home. So, let’s talk about how to arrange your work-from-home station so that your neck and back aren’t hurting by lunch.

Recommended computer and workstation arrangements are the same as in the office. Highlights include:

  • Monitors placed directly in front of your body, approximately an arm’s length away, with the screen around eye level. The exact level is controversial, just try not to position it in a way that has you straining or slouching;
  • Regularly used items like documents, your keyboard and mouse should be close by to reduce reaching distances and frequency;
  • Use your phone on speaker or with a headset to avoid prolonged extreme neck positions;
  • An ideal chair provides basic support to your back, allows your legs to rest approximately parallel to the floor with feet supported and arms to rest on arm rests or a padded surface to allow your shoulders to relax.

Even with a purposefully arranged set up, posture variety is key! Every 30 minutes to an hour, make some changes to interrupt the gradual increase in stress that comes from sustained postures. Your body’s preference for variety is good news because everyone can vary their positions, even if their set up is actually somewhat less than ideal like working in bed, on a couch, next to a little one’s floor seat, etc.

  • Change chairs or adjust your chair height;
  • Switch between using your computer mouse, track ball and touch pad. Move the mouse from one side of your computer to the other;
  • If referencing or using an item on one side of your computer is unavoidable, change the location of the item;
  • Alternate between sitting and standing.

Notably, if you change your home workstation location entirely, you will not have to micromanage your surroundings! Answering emails on the floor next to your infant’s play mat? Switch to the dining room table for that video meeting around snack time and you can add musculoskeletal hygiene to your multitasking checklist!

Your house may be lacking adjustable-height chairs and footrests, but some common items can be re-purposed in your home to optimize your posture while working from home.

  • A stack of sturdy books can be used as a foot rest or to elevate your monitor;
  • Blocks or boards can be placed under desk legs if a desk is too low for leg clearance;
  • If you have a desk, avoid storing items underneath it to maximize your leg space;
  • Wireless is better than wired. Think about acquiring a wireless mouse and keyboard so you don’t have to choose between non-ideal arm and non-ideal neck positions when working on a laptop;
  • A rolled up hand towel can provide some low back support and can be moved from chair to chair.

When many things are beyond our control, I hope you find some comfort and support, even if it is just from a sturdy stack of books on which you can rest your feet.