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The ergonomics of working from home

Safety officials are encouraging employees to practice basic ergonomics to reduce musculoskeletal disorders and injury while working from home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lauren Russell)

Safety officials are encouraging employees to practice basic ergonomics to reduce musculoskeletal disorders and injury while working from home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lauren Russell)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – After weeks of checking emails from a makeshift home office, lower back pain, neck strain and carpal tunnel may be setting in.

While most professional offices are designed for long term comfort, applying basic ergonomics to an at-home workstation is important to avoid musculoskeletal disorders.

“An ergonomic workstation is applicable to wherever you find yourself working,” said Galen Williams, 66th Air Base Group Safety director. “How we set up our work space has a big impact on reducing awkward postures and risk for injury.”

Williams said the first step is identifying a desk or table that can be designated for computer use. Computer work should never be done while sitting on a bed or couch for long periods of time.

“Use a chair with lower back support and a seated cushion,” he said. “If you only have a kitchen or dining chair, put down a cushion, and roll up a towel or blanket to place in the lower back area.”

 If working from a laptop, Williams recommends using an external monitor, keyboard and mouse when possible. If not, elevate the laptop to eye-level by placing it on a stand, or stack of books to prevent neck strain. Avoid resting wrists on a table or desk edge, as it can put pressure on the carpal tunnel.

“If you’re using the phone, use speakerphone or a headset whenever possible, or voice to text to send messages,” he said. “You shouldn’t try to brace the handset or cellphone between your neck and shoulder.”

Williams said an important ergonomic factor that is often overlooked is the environment itself, and that workers should listen to their bodies for the best working setup.

“Make sure you’re working in a comfortable environment and temperature, staying hydrated and taking breaks when you need them,” he said.

For more information on ergonomic workstations, visit https://www.ithaca.edu/information-technology/working-remote/home-office-ergonomic-tips