The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has challenged employers to equip workers with the tools they need to do their jobs safely at home, which includes making your workspace ergonomic friendly. As comfortable as some options may sound, using an improper workstation set up for an extended duration can cause awkward posture that can increase the risk for ergonomic-related injuries or musculoskeletal disorders such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. It is important to set up your workstation as best you can to prevent injury, regardless of where you might work. Sure, you can invest in a height-adjustable table or keyboard tray, ergonomic chair, and more, but you also can make simple changes to your workstation using things you already have in your home.
Below are some simple tips for your setup:
- Use a good office chair, if possible. If you don’t have a good chair, add pillows for back and leg support.
- Raise your chair. Most kitchen tables and desks are too high. Use a pillow as a seat cushion if needed, or better yet use an external keyboard and a lap desk.
- Support your feet on a step stool, a sturdy box, etc., if they don’t firmly touch the ground while sitting.
- Take frequent breaks, at least once every 30 minutes.
- Have a phone call? Stand or pace for the duration to get in some extra movement.
- You can work in a variety of spaces. Changing your posture often is important.
- Place your monitor about 20 inches in front of you or at arm’s length. Having the monitor too close will strain your eyes, while placing it too far away may make you slouch forward in an attempt to read what’s on the screen.
- Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and to naturally remind you to get up and take a break.
- If you have kids or pets, you will get interrupted. Try to establish a routine and involve them when you do take a break so they get time with you throughout the day. Accept that your work and personal life will intersect, and that’s okay.
Maintaining a safe home office is the teleworker’s responsibility. The following checklist is designed to assess the overall safety of an alternative worksite. Employees are encouraged to discuss any safety concerns they have with their managers.
|1||Workspace is away from noise, distractions, and is devoted to your work needs?|
|2||Workspace accommodates workstation, equipment, and related material?|
|3||Floors are clear and free from hazards?|
|4||File drawers are not top-heavy and do not open into walkways?|
|5||Phone lines and electrical cords are secured under a desk or along wall, and away from heat sources?|
|6||Temperature, ventilation, and lighting are adequate?|
|7||All stairs with four or more steps are equipped with handrails?|
|8||Carpets are well secured to the floor and free of frayed or worn seams?|
|9||There is a working smoke detector in the workspace area?|
|10||A home multi-use fire extinguisher, which you know how to use, is readily available?|
|11||Walkways aisles, and doorways are unobstructed?|
|12||Workspace is kept free of trash, clutter, and flammable liquids?|
|13||All radiators and portable heaters are located away from flammable items?|
|14||You have an evacuation plan so you know what to do in the event of a fire?|
|15||Sufficient electrical outlets are accessible?|
|16||Computer equipment is connected to a surge protector?|
|17||Electrical system is adequate for office equipment?|
|18||All electrical plugs, cords, outlets, and panels are in good condition? No exposed/damaged wiring?|
|19||Equipment is placed close to electrical outlets?|
|20||Extension cords and power strips are not daisy chained and no permanent extension cord is in use?|
|21||Equipment is turned off when not in use?|
|22||Chair casters (wheels) are secure and the rungs and legs of the chair are sturdy?|
|23||Chair is adjustable?|
|24||Your back is adequately supported by a backrest?|
|25||Your feet are on the floor or adequately supported by a footrest?|
|26||You have enough leg room at your desk?|
|27||There is sufficient light for reading?|
|28||The computer screen is free from noticeable glare?|
|29||The top of the screen is at eye level?|
|30||There is space to rest the arms while not keying?|
|#||Other Safety/Security Measures|
|31||Files and data are secure?|
|32||Materials and equipment are in a secure place that can be protected from damage and misuse?|
|33||You have an inventory of all equipment in the office including serial numbers?|
|34||If applicable, do you use up-to-date anti-virus software, keep virus definitions up-to-date, and run regular scans?|