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Working at Home - How to Prevent Common Physical Issues

You have finally set up that home office and after a couple of months, constant pain is infiltrating your back and neck. Weeks later -- your fingers ache and lifting your arm above your shoulder is quite uncomfortable. This is the life of the typical work at home individual who spends a great deal of time typing on a keyboard and sitting behind a desk with little to no movement throughout the day. If this sounds like you -- I suggest you explore a few office ergonomic tips geared towards those who choose to work within the comforts of their own home:

Sitting at Your Desk

The chair you sit in while working at a desk will often determine the amount of strain your body will encounter when spending long hours on a project. At the very least, your chair should provide support for your lower back. A quick test to assess the stability of a chair is to place your hand on the small of your back. Sufficient support comes when the back is continuously sustained by the backrest. Your chair should support the natural curve of your body. Additional tips include:

  • Avoid sitting up straight or leaning forward while at your desk, as this can place strain on the back and wrists. Try leaning back slightly in your chair (about 110 degrees) to prevent aches and pains.
  • Avoid resting your elbows on chair arms, which can place your back and shoulders into stressful positions.
  • Keep your thighs parallel to the floor with your feet firmly planted in order to promote correct positioning of the body.

Eye Strain

Pulling an all nighter? Avoid eye strain by positioning the top of your computer monitor at eye level. When situated higher, the monitor will only cause your head to tilt back -- often resulting in headaches. A monitor that is too low can cause neck problems. Make sure lights are not directly shining on the computer screen (including illumination from nearby windows). Many typists have also benefited from using an antiglare screen to prevent eye strain.

Typing on the Keyboard

Tackling a heavy load of articles? You can also prevent physical strain by purchasing a decent computer keyboard. Today, the market is becoming saturated with various ergonomic selections geared towards promoting straight wrists when typing. It is suggested to avoid bending the wrists in an upward or downward position when typing. Instead -- assume what is referred to as a wrist neutral position, which means that the wrists lie flat when typing. You may also:

  • Keep your upper arms at your sides -- avoiding placement that is in front or in back of you.
  • Avoid stretching your fingers when typing, as moving the entire hand and arm will reduce the amount of strain.
  • Do not pound at the keys, as this will increase the amount of stress to the fingers, as well as lead to damage to the shoulders and elbows.

Maneuvering the Mouse

A great deal of discomfort and injuries have resulted from using the computer mouse, as the motion of reaching forward and sideways to use the mouse can cause injury to the shoulder and wrist. Bringing the mouse closer to your body (such as utilizing an extender board) can help. You may also want to purchase a flatter mouse or one that tilts to the side for enhanced comfort.

Talking on the Phone

To avoid the neck pain that comes when talking to clients on the telephone, make sure you do not cradle the receiver between your ear and shoulder. This practice will only end in less energy and more strain to the body. Purchasing a telephone headset can become one of the best ergonomic investments for someone working at home. You will also love the added advantage of having both hands free.


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