How to stay safe working from home during the COVID- 19 outbreak
Businesses around the country are sending their employees to work from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s been estimated that one fifth of the UK’s workforce could be absent in the coming weeks, with millions more finding themselves working from home. Are you one of them? Here are The Modern Ergonomist’s top tips to help you be comfortable and productive when working from home.
For many people this could be your first opportunity to work from home, so are you prepared? Being at home all day can take its toll, both physically and mentally, and with so much uncertainty around when people will be allowed back into the office, you don’t want to develop musculoskeletal injury (MSDs) or feel isolated.1 in 10 employees experience MSDs and, along with stress, is the top reported reason for time off work in the UK (HSE). Unfortunately this has the potential increase as we’re encouraged to work from home because we’re not set up to do so.
Leesman released figures last week showing that of the 140,000 people they surveyed; 55% had no experience of working from home. In addition 39% of ‘sporadic home workers’ reported having no dedicated workstation/ desk.
The Modern Ergonomist’s 6 top tips for working from home
1. Create a new morning routine.
Get up and get dressed, as you would on a regular work day; this will help to get you in the right frame of mind for work. Without your regular commute, you may have more time to exercise first thing in the morning. Studies show that exercise releases endorphins that can help boost your productivity. There are many free workout and yoga videos on YouTube, so you can get your endorphin fix without even leaving the house.
2. Create a dedicated home working space.
Climbing back into bed or curling up on the sofa to check your emails may seem like a good idea, but awkward posture for an extended period can lead to injury. Try to create a working area that is free of distraction and – where possible – separate from the kitchen. Having a dedicated place to work will not only help you to concentrate throughout the day but allows you to finish work at the end of the day and disconnect. It also means you’re not too close to the snacks! If the dining table is the only option then make sure you put your work away at the end of the day.
3. Create a great workstation.
This is essential to keep you comfortable and productive. If your lower back starts aching or your neck starts hurting you may be creating an injury and are less likely to get any work done.
Do you have a comfortable, adjustable chair to use? Ideally, you need an office chair but if this is not possible and you’re using a dining chair for example, make sure your lower back is supported. If you need to add support try a cushion or a rolled up towel. It’s also important that your feet are firmly on the floor, if they’re not then use a box or similar to support them.
The average head weighs a whopping 4.5kg!
Working on a small laptop for long periods can very quickly lead to neck strain. To get set up correctly at home you need to get your hands on a separate keyboard and mouse from work or they can be bought cheaply. You can then use a laptop riser if you have one or you can improvise with a pile of books to raise your laptop up to eye level. When you look straight ahead, your eyes should be looking at the top third of the screen. This will help to prevent slouching and reduce neck pain.
It is important that you’re comfortable, your feet are firm on the floor and your lower back is supported. Your shoulders should be relaxed, with your arms by your side and not reaching forwards. Where possible raise your screen up to eye level to prevent slouching and upper back pain.
4. Take a break.
If you usually work in an open plan office then you are probably used to many distractions throughout the day that you won't experience at home. Make sure you take time away from your computer to reduce eye strain (5-10 minutes every hour) and ensure you’re still moving throughout the day. Set a reminder and don’t feel guilty!
5. Stay connected
Communication becomes even more important when working from home. Again, if you’re used to working in a bustling office then working from home can quickly feel lonely. Schedule regular video calls with your colleagues to make sure you stay connected or just give them a call. Many companies have their own preferred communication method but there are also apps that allow you to connect with colleagues, such as Slack.
6. Get outside.
Try to have a lunch break, get outside and go for a walk, even if it’s just around the block. You’ll be surprised how much this can boost your energy levels and productivity in the afternoon.
The Modern Ergonomist can provide written information about home workstation set up to enable employees to use their existing equipment in the safest possible way.
We are offering webinars as well as remote workstation assessments, via an online form and video conference, to ensure people are working comfortably. This is especially important if there is already an existing musculoskeletal condition, back or neck pain. Companies still have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of their employees, even working from home.
If you need any help adjusting to your new work environment or you're an employer who has concerns about employees working from home please contact me via LinkedIn or email: firstname.lastname@example.org