Home Office Ergonomics 101

As workplace strategists at Knotel, our job is to understand what our customers need to be most productive in their environment. Given the global pandemic, many of us have found ourselves having to change our routines and adapt to working from home.

We’ve received many questions asking how to make your home workspace more comfortable. Whether you live in a 300-square-foot apartment or a 3000-square-foot home, we’ve got tips to help you improve your home office ergonomics.

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is an applied science concerned with designing and arranging the things that we use in a way that is safer and more efficient for our bodies. You can apply ergonomics to any workspace or style, and you don’t necessarily need a ton of fancy tools to make some immediate improvements.

Identifying Your Workspaces

It’s important to identify potential workspaces in your home. Your primary workspace is the one that you find yourself at most throughout the day. For many, your primary workspace is likely being seated at a desk. In fact, in a poll during our recent webinar, 65% of people stated that their primary workspace was seated at a desk or table. 30% said that their primary workspace was sitting cross-legged on the floor or sofa. And finally, 5% said their primary workspace was seated at the kitchen counter.

Your secondary workspace could be sitting at a sofa, standing at your kitchen counter, or standing on your balcony. Standing desks are a great secondary workspace option if you have one (and if you don’t have one, don’t worry, we have some tips below). Try taking stock of the different activities you might engage in throughout the day and assign different activities to different postures. This promotes continuous movement throughout your day, which can be otherwise difficult to achieve at home. Zoom calls could be a trigger to move to your sofa, for example.

Utilizing Different Postures

Leveraging different postures throughout the day will help your circulation, relieve pressure points, and ensure you’re not overloading any single muscle group for a prolonged period of time. Identify the different activities you do throughout the day (like sitting on Zoom calls or writing emails) and match them to the different positions you can have in your house. This will encourage you to move and change your posture throughout the day. For example, take phone or video calls from your sofa and reserve desk time for deep work or writing emails. Three common household positions are:

  1. Seated at a desk or table
  2. Crossed-legged on the floor or the sofa
  3. Sitting at the kitchen counter

Neutral Posture

One of the most important things you can do for your posture is to try and stay neutral. A neutral posture means you’re minimally engaging your muscles and not over-engaging any single muscle. Trying using the three-point check to help you maintain a neutral posture.

Point 1: Make sure you have something to lean your back on. Seat yourself all the way back in your chair. This way you’re able to keep your head directly over your shoulders and have your body carry your head weight naturally.

Point 2: Plant your feet firmly on the ground. If your feet are dangling, this will force your body to lean forward, causing undue strain on your neck and back.

Point 3: Drop your shoulders to maintain a neutral shoulder posture. Avoid shrugging your shoulders.

Two additional ways you can check in with your posture include adjusting your hand position and adjusting your gaze.

Where are my hands?

Try not to reach out forward too far. Try to see if you can rest your arms at your keyboard in a relaxed, L shape. Ideally, your hands are in line with your forearms, and you're not flexing your wrists.

Adjust your gaze.

Ideally, the top of your monitor should be at eye-level. This allows your head and neck to stay in a neutral position. Center your monitor so you’re not looking to the side for extended periods, causing strain to your neck.

DIY Ergonomic Hacks

If you’re able to invest in tools to aid the ergonomics of your space, then we recommend you first invest in a separate keyboard and mouse, so that you can raise your screen to eye level. If you have access to a monitor in addition to your laptop, ensure that the monitor is at eye level so that your head and neck remain neutral. If you can't buy additional tools, alternate between postures and make sure to keep moving. For example, keep your laptop on your desk during zoom calls, and switch to placing your laptop on your lap while writing emails. The most important part is simply to alternate through postures and to keep moving throughout the day.

Finally, here are some additional tips to hack the ergonomics of your home office.

  1. Use soft surfaces. Try placing cushions on your chair to both adjust your seat height and relieve pressure points in the lower back.
  2. Make movement a habit. Move around often however you can. Try setting a reminder to take a bathroom break or walk to the kitchen to refill your water glass. Try to move around at least once every hour.
  3. Get creative with your workspaces. Don’t have a standing desk? Try stacking books and placing your laptop on top of the stack to adjust the height of your screen.
  4. And remember, your primary workstation doesn't have to do everything. For example, try using your kitchen counter to help serve as a standing desk.

Questions? The Knotel workplace strategy team is here to help you. If you’d like to get in touch, please email westdesign@knotel.com.