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Making the Home Office More Efficient

February 22, 2021
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It is almost a year since the COVID pandemic forced us to make radical changes in our business and personal lives. Working from home has become the "new normal" for those of us whose presence in a physical workplace is not required.

The difficult part of working from home - aside from sharing our "workplace" with family members - is that for the most part our homes were not designed as offices. Even if we have a designated room or area to work, conditions may be less than optimal. When the pandemic started most of us did not have the time or support to do an ergonomic assessment.

Ergonomics educator and marketer Darcie Jaremey cited a study published by Ergonomics in Design quarterly last July, "The Home Office: Ergonomic Lessons From the 'New Normal'". (The article can be found at journals.sagepub.com https://doi/full/10.1177/1064804620937907). Based on 41 home office ergonomic evaluations of faculty and staff at the University of Cincinnati, the assessments reviewed the following home office components:

  1. Monitors: laptop, external or combination.
  2. Chairs: most have office chairs, not all are good.
  3. Work surfaces: hard edges, glare, too dark or light.
  4. Input devices: external mouse or laptop device.
  5. Work stations: most sit at desk, some stand.

Issues include

  • Chairs the wrong height, most too low. Poor arm or head position.
  • Armrests may not be used or are wrongly adjusted. This causes stress on forearms and strain on upper back.
  • Chair does not properly support lower back.
  • Monitor too low or off-center.
  • Poor lighting.

For those of us having some or all of these problems (personal note: guilty!) correction may be difficult because of limited budgets or access to proper equipment. There are some low cost remedies. Pillows can be used to make chairs more comfortable. Laptops can be raised to eye level. Towels or insulation can soften effects of hard edges. Don't use dining tables, beds or floors as work surfaces. Use natural light if possible, but position monitors to avoid glare. Changes positions; don't sit in one chair the entire workday.