COVID-19: Home Office Ergonomics - Human Resources Hero

COVID-19: Home Office Ergonomics

Today, more and more companies are shifting to a temporary or even permanent remote workforce which can create a whole new set of challenges for employers. It can be difficult to determine how to support your employees’ physical health while working at home, and you probably aren’t in a position to hire experts to create the perfect home office ergonomic environment for your staff. But you may be able to improve your employees’ working environment at home by helping them improve their home office ergonomics.

What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the science of adjusting job conditions, equipment, and tasks to match the body’s natural ways of functioning. The goal of ergonomics is to prevent illness and injury as well as ensure comfort and productivity in the workspace. Now, more than ever, it’s important to encourage your employees to maintain sound ergonomic practices and to identify risk factors before injuries might occur.

Here are some recommendations to consider when helping an employee to evaluate their home office ergonomics.

  • Use a good chair, one with a backrest and armrest. If this isn’t possible, add pillows or a soft towel for back and leg support. Hips and thighs should form a 90-degree angle when sitting in the chair and knees should bend at a right angle as well, with feet resting flat on the floor. If your feet don’t firmly touch the ground while sitting, try a phone book or step stool.
  • The top of a computer monitor should be just below eye-level so you don’t have to strain your neck to read. If it’s too low, raise it by placing a book or another solid object underneath.
  • Avoid sitting too far from the keyboard and the mouse. Your wrist should be straight and in a neutral position.

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What can you do to improve employees' home office ergonomics?

In some places, like in California,  employers may be required to provide employees with equipment to help them achieve an ergonomic healthy workspace so you might want to consider being proactive by offering to provide employees with equipment to help create a good work environment. Things like a laptop stand, desk chair or external mouse can go a long way.

While you may not have the ability to evaluate every employee’s workspace right now, you can offer best practices and tips for avoiding ergonomic related injuries. You can hold short video conferences or send informational emails to discuss ergonomic considerations or you can provide online organic training. You can even provide a checklist to ensure that employees are considering all the factors related to being healthy while working remotely.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also known as OSHA and the National Institutes of Health or the NIH have checklist and other resources that may be helpful to you. You should also consider posing tips on your company’s intranet about taking consistent stretching movement breaks.

Experts recommend taking breaks every 20 minutes to stand stretch and reset posture, so not only is this good for compliance, but it’s doesn’t take any equipment or cost. Communicating about home office ergonomics is just one small way that you can support your employee’s well-being during this stressful time, but it will dramatically reduce your liability, and improve employee performance in a work from home environment.

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