In a Pinch: How to Set Up Your Home Workspace

April 8, 2020 Updated: April 14, 2020

In the age of social distancing, workers of all stripes are suddenly finding themselves working from home. Our new co-workers may be furry friends, suddenly homeschooling kids, or spouses in the same boat.

We’re asking a lot of the spaces in our homes.

So, how can we properly set up our new workspaces? I asked Jonathan Puleio, a certified ergonomist and vice president of consulting for Humanscale, for his advice on setting up a home office. The company makes ergonomic workspace products.

The Epoch Times: What are the key elements to consider when setting up a home workspace?

Jonathan Puleio: After getting set up with all of the hardware and software you need to be productive at home, focus should then shift to optimizing your health and comfort.

Optimizing your monitor and keyboard position will have the greatest impact on how you feel throughout the day. Setting your monitor height such that the top line of text is at or slightly below eye level is recommended for accommodating your natural 15 degree downward viewing gaze. Positioning your monitor at arm’s reach while tilting the screen away for your body will optimize visual comfort.

Aligning your keyboard and mouse with your seated elbow height will significantly reduce shoulder, hand, and wrist discomfort. Flattening your keyboard will promote straight wrists and reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Simply bringing your keyboard and mouse closer to your body enables the use of the chair backrest and is often a cure for lower back discomfort. If you have an adjustable task chair, unlocking the backrest will help promote movement.

The Epoch Times: What are some mistakes people tend to make when setting up a workspace in their home?

Mr. Puleio: Many home-based workers underestimate the importance of a proper setup. We see workers setting up their laptops on raised kitchen countertops, coffee tables, and even beds. These types of setups are prone to high-risk postures and are simply not sustainable over the long-term. Fixed standing workstations are also prone to high levels of discomfort levels because they do not support the ability to sit.

Alternatives to traditional task chairs such as exercise balls, kneeling chairs, benches, and stools aren’t recommended for prolonged sitting because they don’t support the back.

Work-from-home employees might appreciate being able to work for hours without interruptions, however, this benefit comes with unintended health consequences as prolonged static postures, no matter how close to optimal, will lead to significant discomfort. We recommend getting up from your desk two to three times per hour, even if just for 60 seconds at a time.

Lastly, residential lighting levels are often significantly lower than found in traditional offices. While this is a benefit for viewing a monitor, reduced ambient light levels can compromise one’s ability to view paper-based work. Investing in a quality controllable task light is the best way to offset this issue, especially for those over 40.

The Epoch Times: Small spaces can offer unique challenges. What advice would you give someone setting up an office in a small home or apartment?

Mr. Puleio: Luckily nearly any sized work environment can be equipped with ergonomic work tools. That said, there are some recommended strategies for freeing up additional space.

Flat-panel monitor arms, for instance, are effective in creating additional usable work surface area by lifting the monitor off the desk. Articulating keyboard supports can also free up desk space by clearing the desk of the keyboard and mouse. The additional space can be used to position reference material directly in front of the body. In a small home or apartment, maximizing vertical space with shelving can be an effective strategy for storing items that would otherwise crowd the desk.

The Epoch Times: Working from home is a temporary arrangement for many. How can a workplace be set up that doesn’t bust the budget?

Mr. Puleio: If you value comfort over aesthetics and are on a budget, cardboard boxes, reams of paper and stacks of books make highly effective monitor stands and footrests. A rolled-up bath towel can serve as decent lumbar support if you find your chair’s backrest is a mismatch with your spinal curvature. Throw pillows can be used either to cushion a hard surface or as a means to raise your effective seated eye height.

Proper body alignment can be achieved without the need for investment. We recommend aligning the midline of your body with the space bar on your keyboard and the center of your monitor. Raised kitchen counters can be utilized as short-term standing workstations provided they align with your standing elbow height.

Humanscale is offering online ergonomic consultations for anyone setting up their home workspace or for employers looking to support their remote teams in working from home.

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