Home Office: Ergotized Part 1

Office Ergonomics June 22, 2020

Home Office: Ergotized Part 1 hopes to help you transition your home to a proper home office without breaking the bank. Keep reading for great tips from Dr. Bob Niklewicz PT, DHSc, CEAS II

So, you have an opportunity to work from home AND they will give you a stipend to purchase the equipment you need to create an ergonomically sound space.  FANTASTIC!  You get to wear all those cool sweats that you haven’t given attention to since you got them for your birthday.  This is GREAT, but what’s next? — Let’s start with the CHEAP Basics:

Home Office: Ergotized

ROOM:  The space you use is probably serving multiple purposes. A dedicated space would be best but may not be possible. However, minimize distractions. They may slow  your productivity and increase errors. It would be a good idea to discuss the need for reduced distractions with your co-inhabitants.

The Bare Essentials of the Room include:
Phone and internet connections available in that room. If you usually go wireless, make sure the signal to the room and your equipment is good.  You do not want calls dropping or slow connections to the outside world. Thick walls, furniture and/or bookcases could reduce your signal.

Natural light is a plus, otherwise adjustable lights that can give indirect lighting for most of the room is desirable. It will reduce sharp contrast between your work area and the lack of ambient lighting.  The Desk Area should have adjustable and dedicated lighting to illuminate any documents or work surfaces. If you are working between several areas, lighting over each area is needed. 

FLOOR COVERINGS: Carpet vs. non-carpeted space, is a personal choice. The carpet may make the room warmer and quieter. However, you may need a floor mat to make the chair easier to roll as you move to or away from the desk.

DESK: A kitchen table is usually too high and is not a desk. Neither is a TV tray or a board on your lap. They are discouraged for more than a few minutes. You need to have a desk that allow your thighs to fit under the edge of the desk without hitting/pressing against the top of your thighs. Using an OLD desk with a pencil drawer is a problem for the same reason. The drawer may press into your thighs when the chair is adjusted to the appropriate height.

The typical table is too high (28”30”) for correct use. When you use it as a desk it will cause you to elevate your shoulders. This posture can lead to neck and shoulder muscle soreness.

The desk should be large enough to hold your keyboard, mouse, document holder and Visual Display Terminal (VDT)/monitor screen. If you will need to reference other documents, plan enough surface area to avoid clutter and items stacked on top of each other.

CHAIR: A dining room chair may look nice and is convenient but they are designed to be used for about an hour.  They may not be any more comfortable than a folding chair, though they are usually prettier. Nonetheless, finding a chair that is designed to be used for 6-8 hours, (Ergo breaks included) is required. If you do not have a good office chair, it is worth your time to go to a Big Box Store or smaller office supply shop that have chairs you can test yourself.  (More on chairs and desks in Part 2.)

COMPUTER: Technology has arrived to the level of efficiency where a large desk or floor mounted CPU (Central Processing Unit) can easily be replaced with a Laptop or tablet. IF you do have a desktop or floor mounted unit, make sure the wires are long enough to reach your equipment so you can move the components around in order to reach “Neutral” postures/positions. 

Monitor: It is not advisable to use the screen on a laptop as your primary monitor. A large, adjustable height, freestanding monitor of 19”-24” is ideal.  Dual monitors may be needed depending on the type of work that is done and/or referenced on the screens. Preferred viewing distances:

  • 26” (68 cm) for a 19-inch monitor
    • 30” (76 cm) for a 27.5-inch monitor

No significant differences are found in viewing distance between using a single 19-inch monitor and using dual 19-inch monitors

KEYBOARD: The keyboard and the mouse are the most used items and should be comfortably placed on the desk to avoid extended reaching or elevating the shoulders. The keyboard should be placed directly in front of the VDT with the letter B on the bottom row centered directly in front of the user. 

MOUSE/TRACKBALL/TOUCH PAD: The input device you are most comfortable or familiar with, is a personal choice. Each has pluses and minuses that will affect your comfort, efficiency and speed as well you chance to reduce or exacerbate existing soft tissue issues (MSD’s). More info in Part 2 and 3.

The above should give you food for thought regarding your ergonomics considerations in setting up your Home Office.  In Part 2, we will go into more details and specifics on each Item. In Part 3, self-care and risk factors will be discussed and how they should be applied to you.

Stay tuned for more on Ergotizing your Home Office to make YOUR life safe and healthy.


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