Home Office Ergonomics for Remote Employees

Global workplace trends have experienced a massive shift in the last decade and these changes are accelerating faster now, throughout the coronavirus pandemic, then ever before. It is becoming increasingly common to have at least some employees working remotely, from either co-working spaces or from home. At VForce, we believe that the remote workforce is here to stay. 

While there are many benefits to working remotely, we know that it also poses unique challenges that must be addressed to ensure success. In this article, we will discuss the concept of remote workplace ergonomics and outline best practices to prioritize you and your employee’s productivity, health and well-being.

A major challenge in the remote workplace is ergonomics. Ergonomics is “an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely.” Essentially, it is the science of reinforcing employee productivity, well-being and safety, through designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job.

In a typical office, this involves careful attention to the design and workflow of the workplace and equipment, including desks, chairs, and monitors. Many workplaces offer in-house employees ergonomic office evaluations along with tools including wrist supports, adjustable monitor stands, or standing desks to help combat the risks of sedentary jobs. The legal reasons for the focus on the safety of work environments are occupational health and safety regulations that exist to prevent and manage workplace injuries. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, states that employers must provide a workspace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.” In an office setting, most potential injuries are classified as musculoskeletal disorders, such as sprains, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and hernia. Other potential issues can be caused by poor air quality, or are classified as accidents, like fires or falls.

Ergonomics for Remote Employees

Employers are not relieved of their legal obligation to provide a safe workplace when the workplace is an employee’s home, however, the health and safety criteria are not often legally enforced in home offices. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not conduct home office inspections, but still holds employers liable for hazards caused by equipment, materials or work processes provided or required by the employer, so liability concerns could arise with company products used in the home environment. The worker’s compensation implications of remote work are still crystallizing, as it is still a developing field, but the laws do still apply to remote workers. Regardless, making sure all of your remote employees have an adequate place to work should be a top priority.

Collaborate with your employees to ensure their home office conditions have the necessary features to support sustainable health and productivity, such as natural light, compatible equipment, and ergonomic seating. Best practices include injury prevention training and early injury reporting procedures. You can also consider offering employees a stipend or opportunity for reimbursement for office equipment they may purchase such as ergonomic chairs, keyboards, or monitors.

Consider educating your employees on common office injuries and how to prevent them by providing them with a home office checklist. Employers may ask their employees to certify, in writing, that their home office complies with the safety requirements and suggestions included in the checklist. Suggestions for optimal ergonomics for employees working from home are below!

Home Office Ergonomics Checklist

  1. Your screen
  • Laptops are never ergonomically correct by themselves. On its own, you can sit with a laptop keyboard so that your shoulders are relaxed and elbows are at 90 degrees to avoid wrist and shoulder strain, but the screen will be too low, causing neck and upper back pain. If you raise the laptop screen to eye level, then the keyboard is too high. If you must use a laptop, try alternating between these two positions.
  • If you have a monitor, which is recommended, place it directly in front of you about an arm’s length away, with the top of the screen at or below eye level. 
  1. Your desk & chair 
  • Don’t neglect your posture: sit with your hips and knees at a 90-degree or larger angle, keep your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest, with your arms relaxed at your sides, ideally with your elbows resting at 70 – 135 degrees, and change your working positions frequently, between sitting upright, reclined, or standing.
  • Use the backrest of the chair to make sure you are supporting your lower back. 
  • Make sure your chair allows clearance behind your knees when seated against the backrest, and space to move your knees and legs under the desk. 
  1. Your keyboard & mouse
  • Adjust the keyboard or chair height to keep forearms, wrists, and hands in a straight line. 
  • Tilt the keyboard downward, towards you. When typing, your arms should be bent at a 90-degree angle and your wrists should be straight.
  • Place your mouse at the same height as your keyboard, in the same plane or slightly ahead.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body when typing.
  • Try using wrist rests for your keyboard and mouse pad to limit your wrists resting on the hard surface of your desk.
  1. Your work area 
  • Avoid repeated contact with problem areas such as the edge of your desk and keyboard. 
  • Try to use natural light if possible, with your window to the side of your desk as opposed to in front of or behind you.
  • To reduce glare on your work surface, adjust your window shades, decrease overhead lighting, adjust your screen or add an anti-glare filter.
  1. Your tools & habits
  • Use a headset and a lowered voice if you regularly talk on the phone for extended periods. 
  • Use an adjustable document holder to place reference materials as close to your screen as possible, at the same height and distance as the screen
  • Use ergonomic accessories as needed to support body posture and health, including lumbar support and armrests
  • Use a soft touch when typing and relax your grip on your mouse. 
  • Avoid working too long in one position and try to take quick breaks every 20 minutes – Zoom fatigue is real!

With this information about the importance remote ergonomics in mind, along with our tips for improving home office spaces and workflow, your remote workforce is on its way to becoming happier, safer, and more productive! VForce is your go-to resource for your remote business. Contact us for a free consultation.