Physically working from home can present ergonomic challenges. To set up your home office to be functional, comfortable and safe and for Ergonomic Evaluation / Evaluation Ergonomique (NRC/CNRC) NRC.ErgonomicEvaluation-EvaluationErgonomique.CNRC@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Health and safety: All ergonomics tips and tools to help you when teleworking are posted on MyZone

 

With more than 90% of NRC employees working from home, health and safety while in your workspace is key and worth taking the time to plan and organize. Transitioning to telework can come with a variety of challenges. For example, when working at home without a dedicated office space, we need to be mindful of reducing the risk of injury to our bodies. Below are some handy tips that might help.

Do let your supervisor know if you took or are requesting to take any of your work ergonomic equipment home. Note that the only items that may be removed from NRC premises, with supervisor’s approval, are those that you are able to easily carry (e.g. a foot rest or an ergonomic chair you can lift by yourself).

Working surface

  • If you’re working at a table that is not adjustable, raise your chair (if possible—use pillows if needed) until your elbows are resting at about a 90 degree angle. This is known as a neutral elbow position and will help minimize back, neck, and shoulder tension.
  • If your seat is too high, place a footrest at your feet. Text books make good footrests.
  • If your home set-up cannot be adjusted, ensure you adjust your working position frequently. Switch from sitting to standing to help prevent muscle strain or move to a kitchen counter or other secured surface if you can.

Chair

  • Use a chair with a back rest, as opposed to a stool. Hips should sit right back into the chair, and shoulder blades should be supported, if you can.
  • If possible, use a chair with lumbar support. If your chair does not come with lumbar support, you can roll up a towel and place it in the small of your back. One way to locate the proper positioning is to place your fingers on the top of your pelvic bones to find where the towel or lumbar support should rest.
  • Feet should rest flat on the floor, with knees slightly lower than hips while sitting. If your feet cannot rest on floor, a foot rest can be made with sturdy boxes or books to ensure adequate support for your legs.
  • Arms should be supported by armrests on a chair or resting arms directly on the desk/table (if using a desk as support, ensure that elbow to your fingertips are resting on the desk). You may have to lower/raise your chair to achieve this.

Laptop computer

  • Avoid working with your laptop on your lap (i.e. sitting on the couch). This position forces your neck into awkward positions.
  • The best solution for long term laptop use is to plug in an external keyboard and mouse so these devices can be independently positioned at their own comfortable height.
  • If you do not have an external monitor but you do have an external keyboard and mouse, prop your laptop up so that the top of the screen is at eye level (i.e. use several books). Then use an external keyboard and mouse on your desk or table surface.
  • During video meetings, prop up your laptop at eye level so that your neck is not flexed for too long.

Keyboard and mouse

  • The keyboard and mouse should be on the same level.
  • When using your keyboard, arms should be supported either on the armrests of the chair or on the desk.
  •  Keep wrists straight while typing or using mouse (also known as “floating”). Try not to apply pressure on wrists by flexing or extending, or by resting them on something.
  • If you look at the keys while typing, use the legs on the keyboard to raise it. This can also be done by resting back edge of keyboard on a stack of papers.

Additional guidance

  • Take micro breaks so muscles and joints can rest and recover. Get up and walk around every 30 minutes for 30 seconds. Do stretches for your back, wrists and neck.
  • If possible, switch between sitting and standing every 20 to 30 minutes. You can use a sturdy countertop as your standing work surface. This allows for a change in position and rest/recovery for muscles and joints.
  • Change your habits. Try standing during teleconferences so that you change physical positions frequently.
  • Keep items you need such as documents, stapler or pens close to you to avoid extensive reaching.
  • If you refer to hard copies of documents while using your computer often, use a document holder. If you don’t have one, you can make one by clipping a ruler to the edge of your monitor, and then clipping the documents to the ruler.

Additional information on office ergonomics is available on the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) website: Office Ergonomics.