As millions of people worked from home during the pandemic, the results were often stiff necks, sore wrists, bad backs and headaches from slouching and staring at small screens.
The kitchen counters, dining tables and couches where people set up their desks aren't optimal workspaces. An unhealthy home office setup can lead to problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis or sciatica.
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After a year of working from her Atlanta home, Jody Feldman's back was bothering her as she reached over her credenza for papers and sat in a chair without lumbar support. She reorganized at least three times to have easier access to her printer and files and reduce glare on her computer monitor, but still needs to upgrade her office chair. In the meantime, she puts an old throw pillow behind her lower back.
"The pillow as lumbar support has been a game changer,” says the 60-year-old producer and casting director for the Alliance Theatre. “It's incredible how ergonomics make your life easy and relaxing."
Now that many people will work from home indefinitely, it's time to make those work spaces more ergonomic, with a focus on comfort, efficiency and well-being.
Evaluating your ergonomics
Take stock of your work environment to see what changes should be made to improve the setup and make it less physically stressful, suggests April Chambers, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Bioengineering.
An easy way to evaluate this is to photograph or video yourself (or have someone else do it) at your workspace from the side to see your body profile. Look for ways in which your body may be out of alignment, Chambers says. Are you slouching? Are your thighs parallel to the floor when sitting as they should be? Are your arms at the correct right angle to your body when typing?
If you're having aches and pains after hours at your desk or computer, consider looking into these ergonomic products.
1. A better chair
"You sit in that chair for eight hours, so you better make sure it's comfortable with lumbar support and adjustable seat and arms,” says Tonya Dybdahl, designer and space planning manager for Milwaukee-based National Business Furniture. “High adjustability has become really affordable,” she says, with prices ranging from $200 to $400.