Last March we wrote an article called Ergonomics @ Home answering all of the immediate work from home concerns. Over the last year, we have fielded many questions and calls regarding home office furniture and how best to set up a home office. Read on for home office ergonomics tips to make your workday more comfortable and therefore, productive.
We are still seeing people working for an entire day hunched over their laptop. There is no way to have a good ergonomic set up when working directly on a laptop computer. If you are still doing this, it is time to get a laptop riser, external keyboard and mouse. You only get one body, so you have to be nice to it.
We know that many companies have made arrangements to have office chairs delivered to employees homes, yet even now, we see people who are sitting on kitchen stools or wooden dining room chairs.
If you have not been provided with a chair from the office, then the time has come to make an investment in your health, or maybe use your WFH office stipend to improve your workday comfort. Check out our blog on The 7 Key Features to Look For in a Home Office Chair to help you find an ergonomic office chair that is right for you.
If you do have a chair from the office but you aren’t sure if it is fitting you right, then read our Anatomy of a Chair article which explains the function of all the knobs and levers to ensure you are able to adjust your chair to fit you well.
Desks, Keyboard Trays and Laptop Tables
The kitchen or dining room table continues to be a very common home office location; however, your kitchen table was designed with eating in mind, not typing. If you take into consideration a standard height office desk, which is between 28”- 29” high, is often too high for many people, then the 30”- 31” height of most dining room tables is definitely too high for ideal mouse and keyboard placement.
You want to ensure your keyboard and mouse are positioned at the same height as your relaxed elbow. So when the work surface is too high, you may end up reaching upwards to type and mouse, even if you are tall!
It is often easier than you think to create an ergonomically sound workstation. Two great work from home hacks to allow for more relaxed shoulder and upper back posture are keyboard drawers and laptop tables.
Keyboard drawers, which are easy to install on the front edge of your desk or table with a clamp mechanism, are inexpensive, and do not require any tools for installation. Be sure to double check that the clamps are compatible with the thickness of your desk or table and that the drawer will not interfere with the table apron.
We have been recommending the ErgoActive Height Adjustable Keyboard Drawer for a few different reasons. The first is that it is height adjustable with a range between 10-14cm below the surface of the desk. The second is that it is offered in a few sizes. If you work with a standard size keyboard and mouse you will want the drawer to measure around 27” wide, but if you work with a compact keyboard (one with no numbers on the right side) you can get away with a shorter keyboard drawer.
Mobile Laptop Table
For a laptop table, look for a model which is adjustable and lowers to at least 24”- 27” to suit most users. As with the keyboard drawer, the width needs to accommodate whatever style of keyboard and mouse you use (ie. around 27” when using a standard keyboard and mouse). You will also want to make sure there is enough space for your legs to fit underneath and that there is no bar on the bottom that would interfere with your feet or the chair legs.
We have currently been recommending the Seville Classics Mobile Laptop Table. We like this model because it has a height range of 20.5” – 33” and has a table top width of 23.6” which will accommodate a compact keyboard and mouse easily.
If you have decided that you are tired of working at your dining room table and have managed to wrestle your significant other for the one small corner of space available to create a dedicated home office, then you may be in the market for a new desk. We wrote an article outlining good and bad Features to Look for in a Home Office Desk.
One of our top picks for a home office desk is the Pahl Desk from Ikea. Although it is marketed as a kids desk, the three preset leg heights (23 ¼”, 25 ⅞”, 28 ⅜”) are perfect for adults too!
We are often asked about our opinion on the benefits of sit-stand desks, so we wrote an article answering the question of Do You Need a Sit-Stand Desk?
If you have decided that you would benefit from a sit-stand workstation, it is important to understand that this is a significant investment which requires some research, rather than picking the least expensive option off Amazon.
In our opinion, the most cost effective and best ergonomic choice overall for a home office, is an electronically height adjustable desk. These desks can be adjusted to fit each individual perfectly, as long as you ensure you purchase one with an appropriate height range.
To determine the appropriate height range you will need to measure your seated and standing elbow heights. These measurements will determine the minimum and maximum height range that you will need the desk to accommodate.
To measure your seated elbow height, sit with your hips to the back of the chair, and your feet planted flat on the floor. Anchor your shoulders against the backrest and rest your hands in your lap. From this position have someone measure the distance from the ground up to the tip of your elbow.
To measure your standing elbow height, you will want to stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your arms relaxed at your sides and bend your elbows to about 90°. Have someone measure the distance from the ground to the tip of your elbow.
Sit-Stand Desktop Converter
The sit-stand conversion units that we feel meet ergonomic standards, are often as expensive or even more expensive than the electronically height adjustable desks. However, if you need to work with existing furniture or the equipment will need to be returned to your company office, then you will likely need to look at a sit to stand desk converter.
As discussed, work surfaces at home are already too high for many users, and adding more height in the form of a contraption that sits on top of your desk or table, often spells disaster in the form of hunching up further to access your keyboard and mouse.
We recommend looking for a product with a drop down keyboard tray, like this Ergotron WorkFit-TLE, that would drop below the height of the table it is placed on. This will allow you to place your keyboard and mouse at a more optimal height. This type of unit has a drawback for shorter users as the monitor platform often causes the monitors to be positioned too high to allow for neutral neck posture.
If you are a taller individual, these units may not be able to raise up high enough to match your standing elbow height, and you don’t want to end up hunched forward while working. So make sure you measure your seated and standing elbow heights prior to purchase!
Increasing your comfort and productivity while working from home starts with having an ergonomically sound work area with the right equipment. While this plays an important role in preventing discomfort and injury, the only way to fully reduce discomfort lies with your posture and movement habits throughout the day.
Injury prevention while working from home can be summarized into three elements:
- Prepare the Work Area and Equipment
- Prepare and Maintain the Body
- Practice Healthy Posture and Movement Habits
We understand how discomfort at work can negatively impact productivity and result in long-term pain and chronic injury. If you are experiencing discomfort from office work or getting bogged down with researching what equipment or furniture to purchase for your home office, contact us for a virtual home office ergonomics assessment and one of our Ergonomics Consultants will reach out to help you. All from the comfort of your own home!