Home Office: Ergotized! Part 2

Office Ergonomics June 30, 2020

Home Office: Ergotized! Part 2 is a Deeper Dive into the Home Office. View part one HERE.

Home Office: Ergotized!  Part 2

In our last Newsletter we discussed the basics for ERGOTIZING your Castle into a Home Office. Now we will  focus on a deeper explanation of the Basics of GOOD OFFICE ERGONOMICS. If you live alone this may be much easier. However, the reality of a home office  is that it will impact all of those in the house. This new  WORK situation needs everyone to comply with the NEW Rules for the OFFICE. Good Luck!

ROOM:  The Room you selected is NOW your office. Yes, possibly there will be distracting and random 2 or 4 legged traffic going by initially, but you will deal with it.  Designating your OFFICE different than the ROOM your co-inhabitants were familiar with just moments ago, is IMPORTANT. Explain and insist that when you are in the Office you need extra: space, time and less noise so you can WORK. Interruptions are normal and expected, but establishing ground  rules early will be easier than imposing them after a period of time when they may be ignored.

The Bare Essentials of the Office:

Phone and internet are now connected and available in the Office. You should consider having a USB-Multi-adapter that is easy to access if you will be using External drives or accessories.  Extra ports ALWAYS seem to be needed for keyboard, input devices, memory sticks/thumb drives, wireless / Blue Tooth devices, small fans or camera.

What should be avoided in your OFFICE space, if possible: Your television/plasma screen, refrigerator, coffee pot. Those items should be in a kitchen, NOT  in your Office. Not having those items in the OFFICE space will assist you in being “isolated.” If they are elsewhere, you have to leave the Office to use them and in essence you are taking an ERGO break!  A multi-purpose tasking event for sure. Movement helps stimulate circulation. You get to air out you brains and get a little more exercise for the body. Movement activities can help combat writers block or fatigue.

Lastly, file cabinets and shelving should be placed away from the desk to force you to get out of the chair to retrieve items.  Also, remember that the most frequently used items should be in the TOP drawer of the 2-3 drawer file cabinet or in the middle drawers of a 4 drawer cabinet. To retrieve items, make sure to TURN your chair rather than twisting your body and reaching.

Natural light:  Not all artificial light sources or lamp bulbs are the same. For any light that shines onto your desk and work area, it should be a “Full Spectrum” or “White” light. These can be LED (Light Emitting Diodes) or tubes. The light provided should not have a color tint to it. Incandescent light may have a yellow hue to it. This can be fatiguing to your eyes. Having a dimmer switch on the desk lamps may also be helpful. Having a  specific DOCUMENT LIGHT that allows you to easily see the sharp contrast between the letters and the paper they are on, is an excellent idea.  Look for  a lighting source that provides between 250-500 Lux and is adjustable.

FLOOR COVERINGS: If your OFFCIE space has  a hard floor, the chair you will choose should be designated with casters/wheels for a Hard Floor. These will be a rubberized caster not hard plastic. They decrease the noise when rolling around and make your chair more stable. If you are on  a carpeted floor, hard plastic casters work well.  However, if you are going to use a floor mat/carpet cover on the carpet, the rubberized casters/wheels are needed. 

A beveled edge mat should be large enough for you to move your chair all around your immediate work area, without a wheel falling off the mat.  BTW- If you are going to use a floor mat/carpet cover, buy a thicker model as a thin plastic mat will dimple where the wheels rest and it is harder to roll out of these craters  that the wheels make in the mat.

DESK: DRUM ROLL!!! Question: What do you need for a desk?  Answer: ONE THAT FITS YOU!! 

Ideally, when you put your feet on the floor/carpet, you should be able to sit with your ankles, knees and hips flexed at ABOUT 90 degrees. (Check out our Video Solutions Series)  This is called NEUTRAL Sitting posture.

From this position where your hips are in neutral, your back is straight up and your arms are hanging close at your sides with the elbows bent to 90°, there will be a space between the forearm and the top of your thighs. For most people this is about 2” of space. People with SHORT upper arms may have more space, while those with LONG upper arms, may have their forearms resting nearly on their thighs.

The normal desk height is about 28”-30” with a 1 – 1 ½” thick surface. NOTE: That is also about the normal dining room/kitchen table height. BUT the dining room/kitchen table also has a 3”-3 ½” rail under the top to give support to the surface. Adding these two measurements together the table is more than 4” thick which is 2x the average forearm to thigh space. This issue, may force you to elevate your shoulders  to use the keyboard/mouse and the rail could press down onto your thighs.

The KEY to a good fit for the desk is that the hard surface where the keyboard/mouse are placed comfortably FITS in the space between your forearms and thighs. “FITS” means you do not have to elevate your shoulders to get your hands on the  keyboard/mouse AND the bottom of the desk surface is not pressed into your THIGHS. You should be able to move or even cross your legs under the desk without getting out of the NEUTRAL Sitting posture. That is why a desk drawer or table rail may be in the way and must be removed to clear that space under the desk for your GOOD OFFICE ERGONOMICS posture.

CHAIR: The saying is: “You get what you pay for.” This is frequently true.  However, the cavate is, “Be a good shopper.”  A chair that is expensive or called “ergonomic”  does NOT guarantee that it is a better chair. Buying a chair on-line without sitting on it and using the knobs/adjustments, is extremely risky.  

We recommend that you go to a couple of stores that have office furniture IN the store. Look at the price tags last. Remember you are going to be using this chair for many hours a day and many years.

The chair should be immediately comfortable. You do NOT “break in” a chair like you do a new pair of shoes. The more adjustments, generally the better chance for it to be comfortable over time. An “ergonomic chair” ONLY needs two adjustments, up / down and a seat that turns, to be called an “Ergonomic Chair”.

The chair you are looking for should have: Adjustable height, 5- casters, adjustable seat pan, adjustable pan tilt and adjustable seat depth adjustment (forwards and backwards), adjustable armrests up/down and in / out. An adjustable back support that goes up/down, tilts back/reclines with a lumbar support. The back support is the most important part of the chair! While seated your back should always be supported by/rest against the back support.  A headrest is not necessary. Do you like mesh fabric, cloth or leather/pleather? Mesh has better air circulation but may not provide enough cushion and support over time. If the seat pan is mesh it can sag over time. Leather/pleather does not allow for air to circulate and may be hot and uncomfortable for extended seating. (Check out our Video Solutions Series

If you’re the only one that will ever be sitting in this chair you may NOT need all  of these adjustments or options. That is why it is important to actually sit  in and touch the chair. You will know if it is perfect for you when you sit in it for a while. You can get a good ergonomic chair on-line without ever touching it but it is your call.

Are you surprised at all of the details in GOOD OFFICE ERGONOMICS?  Perhaps some things you have already have figured out for yourself. However, if I was able to give you ergonomics issues to think about and they make it easier for you to get started, I have accomplished my goal.

In the Next Newsletter, I will go into more detail on: keyboards, input devices, high/low desks, standing options and Ergo Breaks. Stay Tuned!      

One thought

  • David C. Hybner, O.T. , CEAS

    I hope to make a phone call this afternoon to ask questions about the REAS I and REAS II certification process.

    I first attended CEAS 1 IN 1994 while at Johns Hopkins Hospital , as part of level 2 project for on site Ergonomics / injury prevention service

    In 2007 attended additional CEAS in Newport News , VA

    I desperately need to update my skill set to include virtual assessment and training ( as indicated) and leadership accumen

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