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  • Heidi Blackie

Are you still working from home?

I am still doing lots of ergonomic evaluations in homes, and have seen it all—people working in basements, closets, on tables and TV stands, couches, and beds. One thing is unanimous among all of my clients—the toll on their bodies of not being in a good position.

The good news is, you don't have to spend a lot of money buying a new desk or expensive equipment.

If you are working on a laptop for any length of time—stop, and grab a few items to increase your comfort. While it’s portable and convenient, a laptop can’t be the right height for a neutral neck and neutral arms at the same time. With a little creativity using objects found in your home, you can turn your laptop workstation into an ergonomic one. If you are on a desktop, the same principles apply.

What is the optimal position?

Spine—elongated with natural curves, neutral neck, ear aligned with shoulder, and chin parallel to the floor. From this position, look straight into the horizon—your eyes should align with the top one-third of the screen. Your fingertips should touch the screen when you are sitting back in your chair or standing.

Pelvis—level, weight evenly distributed between sit bones.

Arms—upper arms relaxed by your sides, wrists just below elbows and in a neutral position: top of wrist slightly above or in the same plane as the top of the forearm, and middle finger aligned with the middle of the forearm. Think of playing a piano. Wrists are not resting on the table or keyboard, they float unweighted above the keyboard and can sit in your lap when not in use.

Feet—flat on the floor or on a footrest. Believe it or not, a lot of postural support comes from your feet—even if you are sitting down.

From actual position to optimal position

I have a fixed desk and use a board on my lap for my keyboard and mouse, along with a separate monitor on an adjustable arm. I created a standing station on my kitchen counter by placing my laptop on a stand to achieve the correct screen height and use a separate keyboard and mouse. I move between the two stations throughout the day.

If you don't have a separate monitor or are mobile, use the laptop screen (I like to enlarge the page/print) on a stand and a separate keyboard and mouse, or a keyboard with an integrated mouse. There are lots of laptop stands on the market, just make sure you check the measurements before buying because most are too low.

If you are sitting at a desk or table and your wrists are above your elbow, you would benefit from a lap desk, or, in a pinch could rest an integrated keyboard/mouse on your lap. We had a house project with several pieces of leftover plywood that fit across my lap and are wide enough to accommodate both my keyboard and mouse. Look around your house to see what might be sitting around or look online.

I love my chair, but my feet don’t rest comfortably on the floor, so I use a box as a footrest. It is wide and the perfect height.

Once you get your workstation dialed in, remember to take breaks and move. Move in the different planes, bounce, blink a lot, look out a window at things in the distance and let your eyes adjust, go outside—even if it’s raining, and smile…even if you don’t feel like it.

Try it out and let us know how it went. If you still need help, contact us.

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