Ergonomics, also known as Comfort Design is a term closely related to ‘User Experience’. It is the process of designing/arranging workplaces or products so that they fit the people who use them.
Being an IT professional, our job requires us to be seated at a desk for several hours a day. This sedentary lifestyle is putting us at risk of the “sitting disease”. Research shows that sitting for a long period of time without adequate movement can lead to several health issues. Chronic neck pain, back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, to name a few, all of which impact long-term health and productivity.
To prevent these and enhance your wellbeing, it’s important to implement healthy workplace habits to improve your posture at work through ergonomic principles.
This is how you are expected to be sitting in office.
But, does this happen while at home? Not everyone has a home office or dedicated desk or a perfectly ergonomic chair. So, we’ve listed a few ways to stay comfortable and avoid back pain while you work remotely.
In spite of its name, laptops are not meant to be placed on the lap! Laptops are never going to be ergonomically good because the monitor is either going to be too low or the keyboard is going to be too high. In those cases, it’s better to have a separate keyboard and mouse.
– Place your keyboard and mouse at elbow height, and your laptop on a box or pile of books, directly in front of your eyes.
– Use a small pillow or a rolled-up towel on your chair for extra lower back support, if needed.
– If your chair is too low, sit on a cushion to raise your seat height.
But please don’t think you can sit in this perfect ergonomic posture all day long! That’s where the remaining tips come in.
Sitting is not particularly bad for you. What makes it bad is the long hours you stay sitting. There are excellent support products available that encourage work posture, but any fancy office chair will not save you, because it is still a chair, and you are still sitting! So what do we do?
- Change Postures
For example, you might start your day sitting up cross-legged on the floor and putting your laptop on a coffee table, then transition to a standing position or sit on your perfect ergonomic chair. Standing for so long leads people to start leaning, so try creating your own comfort cycle like 30 minutes of seated work, 5 minutes of standing followed by 3-5 minutes of moving around. It rests your brain and prevents you from getting comfortable in the wrong position.
When attending calls (if not video calls), try walking around. Consider climbing a set of stairs on call, believe me, climbing seems very easy when your mind is focused on work! In the office, getting a cup of coffee, talking to colleagues or heading to the canteen provides short breaks. But when at home, we have a tendency to just be focused, so we might forget about the breaks. But the fact is, you’re home and you’re free to move around! Make sure your computer or laptop has enough battery backup so that won’t hinder you from moving around.
Tips for breaks/relaxation
– Drink plenty of water.
– Walk outside in the backyard/balcony to get some fresh air.
– Interact with colleagues by voice/video conferencing to stay connected.
– Don’t spend your breaks with mobile phones (does that work?)
– Do stretches and quick exercises.
- No Couches
Couches should never be chosen as a place to work in. Involuntarily your posture gets really bad and the comfort can stop you from moving around. If you have no other option other than to sit on a couch, set a timer to remind yourself to get up and walk.
If you are a person who frequently takes calls and you want to take notes at the same time, either place your phone on speaker or use a headset. Cradling your mobile between your head and neck, should never be a choice.
Break your workday into 25 minutes chunks separated by 5 minutes breaks. Each 25-minute work block is called a “Pomodoro.” After 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-20 minutes. Don’t worry about working for a shorter span or about your productivity, just try Pomodoro and see the difference! For every Pomodoro, you can try a different posture as well.
Only you can decide what setup works best for your health. Pay attention to these ergonomic principles, find time to take care of your body and make sure you don’t end up in the doctor’s office when the self-quarantine is over.