Ergonomics: Working Comfortably From Home

Working from home is something very new to a lot of people who are suddenly shifting their workspaces in order to keep a safe distance from their coworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic. With considerable experience both working and studying from my home office, I thought I would dedicate a post today to my favourite tips for how you can work a desk job from home both safely and comfortably.

  1. Make sure that your desk is set up in a way that is healthy for your body. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has some really great resources to help you do this properly, including how to position your monitor and how to adjust your office chair. You will significantly reduce your risk of repetitive strain injuries if you set up your space correctly.
  2. Wherever possible, set a clear boundary between your work space and your living/recreation space. This is easier to do if you can dedicate a room as a home office, but it also applies to smaller homes. Resist the urge to work from your laptop while lounging in bed. It might seem luxurious but you don't want to blur the lines between a space intended for relaxation and a space meant for work.
  3. In addition to setting boundaries for space, make sure you set boundaries for your time as well. The Canadian Psychological Association emphasizes the importance of respecting your work hours and preserving time for yourself and your family. Maintain a healthy balance of work and life and you will find it easier to be productive and happy with both.
  4. Give your eyes regular breaks from staring at your computer monitor. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends following the "20-20-20 rule", which involves looking at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
  5. Take coffee breaks the same way that you would when you are in the office. Set aside time to connect with your colleagues over instant messaging or phone calls to keep in touch. Not only is this good for your own personal well-being but it will help you to maintain your professional network which is so important for your career. I used to really dislike the awkwardness of small-talk in the office, but I recently learned that it serves a very important function. Check out this 2019 article from the New York Times that highlights to usefulness of socializing with your coworkers: The Awkward but Essential Art of Office Chitchat.
  6. Don't eat lunch at your desk. Give yourself a proper break, eat somewhere else, and maybe go for a walk if the weather is nice. You'll feel refreshed and have a more productive afternoon.
  7. Change out of your pyjamas, brush your hair, and wear something nice. I'll never understand people who feel the need to wear formal business attire in their home offices (unless they're on a lot of important video calls, of course), but you will feel better if you get dressed for the day - even if you have no intention of stepping foot outside or seeing another living person.
  8. Get help if you need it. Working from home can be a really drastic change for some people, and it's important to keep an eye on your mental health. From my own personal experience I highly recommend cognitive therapy.


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