Bringing Work Home
We’ve all done it… we’ve brought work home… didn’t intend to, but hearing that new email arrival ping, like Pavlov’s dog, it makes our fingers twitch and we reach for the device to see who needs us. This can become a habit, one that can conflict with our mental health and family time. Whether you have a dedicated office in your home, a kitchen table or the sofa, pay attention to the ergonomic set up for work you do outside of the office.
Work Surface Height
If you find yourself consistently bringing work home, choose a dedicated area to set up ergonomically. Place your device at a height where elbows are level with the spacebar of the keyboard. This becomes difficult when using a tablet or laptop because of the screen height. If using a laptop for extended periods (over 30 minutes), elevate the device on two reams of paper or a monitor riser and use an external keyboard and external mouse. If your couch is your comfort haven for work after hours, place a pillow on your lap under the device to elevate the screen a bit and open the monitor portion to a wider angle for more comfortable viewing.
Posture Follows Vision
Whether checking emails on your phone, tablet or laptop, if the screen is below eye level, your head will follow your vision. Lock your elbows into your side and view the phone screen by bending your elbows and bringing the device up towards your head. If sending emails or texts on your smart phone, use the ‘talk-to-text” microphone feature and dictate your message to reduce neck bending and texting thumb. Using a headset, whether Bluetooth or earbud cords, prevents a stiff neck. Be sure you look the text over before you send because of that pesky ‘auto correct’ feature!
Have a Decent Chair
A card-table chair isn’t ergonomic, no matter how many pads you place on the seat. Find an office chair that is comfortable, easily adjustable and rolls up to that kitchen table. The office chair may not be appropriate for dinnertime, but it will make conducting business from home more comfortable. Remember to sit back against the backrest and avoid the temptation to slouch. You’ve already worked an 8- to 10-hour day. So, if your posture starts hunching, it’s time to put your phone or computer to bed for the night.
Keep track of the amount of sitting you do throughout the day. There is ‘occupational’ sitting and ‘leisure’ sitting. Occupational sitting is the sitting time at work, at your computing device. Leisure time sitting is after work, while binge-watching your favorite TV series, reading a book, candy crushing, etc. Are there health risks only with occupational sitting? There are health risks from the total amount of combined sitting done in the day (at work and at home). Change your posture often and remember that your best position is your NEXT position. Switch tasks, get up and go speak to a coworker, set the timer on your device to remind you to get up, or alternate sitting with standing.
Studies on the health effects from TOTAL sitting time are raising concerns over our sedentary work habits and lifestyle (Rempel, 2018). For those of us who fidget, research is showing that it may be a protective factor for cardiovascular health because our legs are moving and that increases circulation.
If you consistently bring work home, be sure you have an ergonomically comfortable place to do your homework. Be aware of your habit to compulsively check the phone after work and try to restore more balance in your life. Make it a point to get up and move often throughout the day, at work and at home. No matter where you are, your body was meant to be active. So, take the opportunity to get up and move at least every 30 minutes.
About Kathy Espinoza
Kathy is Keenan’s ergonomist and conference speaker, authoring numerous articles on ergonomics, injury prevention and management issues that have an impact on Keenan clients.