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Make Your Home Office More Ergonomically Correct

Filed under Office & HR.

While companies spend millions of dollars each year making sure their employees' workspace won't cause them injury, most home-based businesses don't usually give it a second thought. Maybe that's because, as a home-based business owner, you can't make a workers' compensation claim against yourself for getting carpal-tunnel syndrome or a bad back.

In any event, making sure that home workstations are ergonomically sound is something that home-based workers should pay more attention to. The risks of ignoring potential sources of injury are just too high: Your livelihood, in fact, may depend upon it.

For some advice for how to make the home office less dangerous, we turned to office furniture giant Haworth Inc., which suggested these five simple yet significant ways to make the home office environment more ergonomically sound:

  • Get up and move. Because nearly 75 percent of the workforce sits and works at personal computers, many suffer from muscular strain, impaired blood circulation, back problems, and other medical problems. "We sit and sit, and that is basically what is wrong with the nature of work today," said Rajendra Paul, a corporate ergonomist with Haworth. The solution is to move frequently. Get up and make photocopies. Intersperse active and sedentary tasks throughout the day.
  • Learn proper PC posture. Headaches and carpal-tunnel syndrome are just two ailments caused by poor PC posture. Position the computer's keyboard and mouse so that they are within easy reach and your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Keep the top of the monitor screen three to five inches below your line of sight when looking straight ahead.
  • Mix it up. Many jobs today are too repetitive, involving recurrent work patterns and processes that result in physical and mental stress. Vary daily activities. Take short breaks throughout the day.
  • Lighten up. . .or down. Too much or too little light can cause headaches, eye strain and other eye disorders, especially among older workers. Reduce ambient light sources to prevent glare on your computer screen and supplement the home office with task lights to highlight work surfaces and conference areas. Seek light sources that are adjustable.
  • Get adjusted. Too many people take office furniture for granted--only one out of 10 know how to adjust his or her furniture. Consequently, most fail to take advantage of the ergonomic benefits incorporated into modern office furniture. Most good desk chairs have height, back and tilt adjustments. Use them often. Also, take advantage of variable-height work surfaces and desks that allow you to work sitting, standing or anywhere in between. "The one development that has done the most to prevent ergonomic injuries in the office environment is the sit-stand workstation," Paul said.

You are what you sit in, some wag once observed. But the ergonomists of the world would probably say that all too often just the opposite is true. If only what we sat in matched what we are, they would probably say, we'd all be better off.

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