04 May Ergo Essentials for Now and The Future
Last year, when COVID appeared on the scene and shelter-in-place took hold, so many of us who were catapulted out of our offices and into our homes, scrambled to figure out the best work set-ups and equipment that would make our homes a viable workspace.
The good news is that a year later, we are so proud of all of the companies that responded with WFH stipends, programs to take home essentials like chairs, monitors and in some cases, even desks from the office, ergonomic evaluations when needed, self-assessments, ergo awareness and training campaigns and any and all other programs to make WFH a success. KUDOS!
But just like we were in transition then, as vaccine roll-outs continue to be successful, and companies are grappling with their return-to-office scenarios, you may be wondering where that leaves you in the mix.
The One Thing You Have Full Control Over is YOU!
While we don’t have control over things like pandemics, natural disasters and even, what your company will require with regards to WFH, returning to the office, or a mix of the two, the one thing you have full control over, at all times, is your body. In this scenario, you are the boss. And as the boss, it’s critical to know what will work and won’t work for you and your one and only body. What follows are ergo essentials no matter where you find yourself working these days and the days to come. And guess what, it’s easier than you think!
What will my work scenario look like?
There are several scenarios that are being planned for and depending on where you work, any of the following may come into play.
- WFH (working from home predominately or full-time)
- WFO Assigned (working from the office in a designated assigned seat, predominantly or part-time)
- WFO – Unassigned (working from the office in more of a hotel or sign-up scenario)
- Hybrid (a mixture of working from home and in the office)
In that case, what are the ergo essentials that I should keep in mind?
- Pay Attention To Your Body. No matter where you work, your body will either feel good or let you know quickly that something is out of whack. And it does that typically by sending signals that show up as fatigue, tension, strain, pain, numbing and tingling. So the very first order of business is to always check-in to see if there are any points of discomfort or anything that doesn’t quite feel right. If so, then work your way backwards to make sure that your set-up is truly ergo-friendly and working for you and not against you.
- Align Yourself. As you may have heard, your posture plays a significant role in your overall comfort and energy levels while you work. So, whether you sit or stand when your work (or both), keeping your body aligned the way they are naturally designed will be the key to your ergo success. And the good news is that it is simple!
-Keep your ears over your shoulders,
– Shoulders over your elbows,
– Elbows close to your sides,
. . .and if you are standing,
– Keep your elbows over your hips,
– Hips over your knees, and
– Knees over your ankles.
- Allow Your Elbows To Cue You. Rather than worry about what height your sitting or standing desk (or lapdesk, dining room table, kitchen counter, etc.) are, use your elbows as your guide. Your keyboard and mouse should be at or slightly below your elbows. And that presumes that your elbows are hanging directly under your shoulders (upper arm hangs straight) and are close to your sides. If you find yourself reaching forward or to the side, hunching your shoulders up or flaring your elbows out, stop, and see what is causing what. Is your keyboard too high? Too far forward? Skewed to the left? Does your mouse line up in front of your shoulder or do you have to turn your shoulder out to reach? If any of these are at play, reposition yourself in relation to your set-up, or reposition your set-up.
- Watch Your Line of Vision. While setting yourself up well involves a few different components, the thing that has the most impact on your posture and overall comfort is your line of vision. Do you find yourself hunching over your laptop which is plunked down on your work surface and looking down at your screen? Is your monitor too high causing you to look up? Maybe it’s off to the side requiring you to turn your neck in order to see. And don’t forget about iPhone and tablets that can also cause you to bow your head and round your back. Instead, place your screens at a height that allows your head and neck to stay in that upright alignment that allows your ears to balance over your shoulders. Anything short of that can cause strain and tension in your neck, shoulders, back and cause headaches and eyestrain. And who wants that?!?
What equipment will help me if I fall into the hybrid work category and rely on my laptop?
The great news is that whether you prefer DIY or store-bough solutions, you can manage to get yourself set up pretty much anywhere with a few key items:
- External Keyboard and Mouse. These are a must if you use your laptop or a desktop computer. And even your tablet and phone!
- External Monitor or Laptop Riser. In order to avoid a low line of vision, use an external monitor if available, or prop your laptop up on some books, reams of paper, or a laptop riser.
- Lap Desk. Something as simple as a cookie sheet, a piece of sturdy cardboard or a commercially bought lap desk, can help you when working on a soft seat like a couch, a desk or tabletop that is too high for you to comfortably reach your keyboard and mouse. A lapdesk allows you to keep your elbows at your side and under your shoulders.
Will equipment and positioning alone keep me comfortable?
Your set-up and reliance on DIY solutions or ergo equipment will allow you to check off most, if not all the items on your ergo checklist. But it is critical to take breaks regularly, change positions and work in 60 – 90 minute intervals. The combination of a healthy set-up along with giving your body and mind much-needed breaks, will not only help you avoid pesky aches and pains, but you will significantly up your productivity if you make good ergo a practice. 🙂