Health Advocate Blog

Create a healthy space to work at home

The coronavirus pandemic work-at-home mandates have prompted many people to work in their living spaces on laptops or computers for extended periods, some with makeshift desk setups. If not properly adjusted, these setups can create undue muscle strain and impact well-being and productivity. Even if you have a less than ideal working space available, these tips can help optimize your comfort and efficiency.

Set up your work space to minimize distractions. Whether you have a dedicated room or just a space facing a wall at the end of the hallway, aim to block out nearby household activities. Try noise-cancelling headphones or makeshift screens. And remember, when not making or receiving work-related calls, turn off your cell phone and place it out of your direct line of sight.

Keep your body in a neutral, relaxed position. Adjust your chair so you can sit all the way back, slightly reclined, with your feet flat on the floor and knees level with your hips. Keep your back straight and tall, and your shoulders back—a lumbar support pillow or rolled-up towel placed in the curve of your back can help you achieve this.

Position your monitor screen slightly below or at your eyesight level to avoid head tilting. Overall, your keyboard/desk setup should be at elbow height, allowing your arms to be parallel to the floor when typing. Consider keyboard and mouse pads to keep your wrists in a neutral, flat position. 

Rest your eyes every 20 minutes for 20 seconds to view something 20 feet away. If possible, work near natural light.

Get up and move often. Go from seated to standing while working, relocating to a kitchen bar counter, for example.  Throughout the day, do a full spinal stretch, reaching your arms above you and arching backwards.  Movement can relax tissues, lubricate joints, prevent stiffness, and reduce fatigue.

More healthy work-at-home tips….

Stick to a firm work start/stop schedule and set expectations with others in your household. Let them know that when you are seated at your desk, you are working, and when it is okay to interrupt.

Remember to set clear boundaries between work and household chores. It’s easy to get pulled away to finish up the dishes, do laundry, etc., but save it for set break times (a timer device can be a useful tool!). The same goes for waiting for your designated break to check personal emails/texts/calls, as well as the latest news.

Keep things organized well. Aside from a proper, organized setup for your laptop, keyboard, mouse and phone, keep things in order by using stacked bins for your paperwork, paper clips and other needed items. A nearby filing box can also be helpful.  

If you are struggling with balancing home and work, talk to a licensed behavioral health clinician for support and strategies.