If you are a remote worker, you might be wondering whether you need to worry about ergonomics in your home office.\r\n\r\nIf you are a remote worker, ergonomics is just as important as if you were working in an employer's office.\u00a0 By adopting proper ergonomics, you can work comfortably, avoid injury, and improve your productivity.\r\n\r\nThere are many potential ergonomics issues in your home office, and just as many solutions for these problems.\u00a0 Keep reading to learn about ergonomics, how you can benefit from it, and what steps you should take to setup your home office.\r\nWhat is Ergonomics?\r\nErgonomics is the science of enhancing worker productivity.\u00a0 To improve worker productivity, employers and employees should pay attention to the design of the workplace, the tools used, and the work processes in place.\r\nExample\r\nTo assemble a product, a worker needs to walk back and forth several times across the floor of a large manufacturing building to gather parts.\r\nTo improve productivity, the manager moves the necessary parts closer to the worker, so that he does not need to walk as much, thus improving his productivity.\r\nErgonomics has evolved in recent years to include workspace design that prevents workers from injury.\u00a0 Since injured workers work more slowly (or not at all!), preventing injury will naturally improve productivity.\r\nWho Benefits from Ergonomics?\r\nWorkers, employers, and insurance companies all have an incentive to see businesses adopt sound ergonomic principles.\r\nWorkers\r\nThere are several good reasons for workers to adopt good ergonomics.\r\n\r\nFirst of all, improved productivity can mean raises and promotions for an employee.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAlso, safe work practices will result in fewer injuries.\u00a0 This means that workers will not need to miss work, thus decreasing the chance of losing their pay or their jobs.\r\nEmployers\r\nEmployers also stand to benefit from good ergonomics.\u00a0 Improved worker productivity means a more profitable company.\r\n\r\nAlso, when workers are more productive, an employer can increase pay for employees, thus improving company morale.\r\n\r\nFinally, improved ergonomics will prevent injuries among employees.\u00a0 This removes the need to hire and train new employees.\u00a0 In addition, with fewer injured workers, the company will pay lower premiums for workers' compensation and other insurance.\r\nInsurance Companies\r\nImproved ergonomics means that insurance companies will have fewer claims to sort through, making it easier to identify fraud and prevent abuse.\u00a0 This will lower costs for the insurance companies, which will bring lower premiums to the marketplace.\r\nWhat Can You Do to Improve Ergonomics?\r\nThere are a few principles to keep in mind if you want to improve ergonomics in your workspace:\r\n\r\n \tdon't perform a task too many times\r\n \tdon't stay in a position for too long\r\n \tuse the most comfortable tools available for the job\r\n \taudit your workflow for productivity and efficiency\r\n\r\nBelow, I have included some examples of how you can adopt some of these principles in practice.\r\n\r\nThis first example shows how we can avoid performing a task too many times.\r\nExample\r\nAlex is constantly copying and pasting between documents and spreadsheets for his job.\r\nInstead of clicking repeatedly, Alex can use keyboard shortcuts to copy (Ctrl + C) and paste (Ctrl + V).\r\nAlex could also buy an ergonomic mouse with copy and paste buttons, which would make his work more efficient - and much easier on his hands, wrists, and arms.\r\nIf you want to learn more about the ergonomic equipment I use when working remotely, check out my resources page.\u00a0 You can also check out my article on why you should use an ergonomic mouse.\r\n\r\nThis next example shows how to avoid staying in the same position for too long.\r\nExample\r\nBob sits in a chair at his desk all day, either writing or typing on his computer.\r\nInstead of sitting all day, Bob can buy a dual standing and sitting workstation, to switch between the two modes during the day.\r\nBob could also use a treadmill or exercise bike during part of the day.\u00a0 While he gets some light exercise, Bob can use speech recognition software to record his thoughts, instead of typing.\r\nIn addition, Bob could set aside regular breaks (1 minute every 15 to 20 minutes) to stop working and stretch or do jumping jacks and pushups.\r\nThe next example shows how you can make sure that you are using the most comfortable tools for the task at hand.\r\nExample\r\nCarl works in a restaurant, where he needs to cut many different vegetables each night.\r\n\r\nOne thing he should do is make sure that he is using the best knife for each particular type of vegetable.\r\nAnother thing he can do is to make sure he is using a non-slip cutting board.\r\nFinally, Carl can look into some type of machine that will do some of the high-volume vegetable cutting for him.\r\nOf course, every worker can audit his workflow to improve ergonomics.\u00a0 This means thinking about how to minimize repetitive actions or go about doing things in a way that is more efficient.\r\n\r\nCompanies and health insurance companies should also encourage smart ergonomic behavior by educating workers about best practices before they become injured.\r\n\r\nCompanies can also offer incentives or benefits to employees to provide the best ergonomic equipment to improve productivity and safety.\u00a0 They can also create guidelines and recommendations for all employees, based on what has worked for others.\r\n\r\nOf course, these guidelines act as a starting point only - each person will have different ergonomic needs.\r\nErgonomic Problems & Solutions\r\nThere are numerous challenges to contend with when trying to practice sound ergonomics.\u00a0 Luckily, there are plenty of ways to solve these problems and preserve your health while increasing productivity.\r\nAwkward Positions and Contortions\r\nSometimes, we all sit in awkward or uncomfortable positions while working.\u00a0 This is especially likely if you are deep in thought, such as when a computer programmer is thinking hard about how to write the best code for a task.\r\n\r\nIf left unchecked, these awkward postures can cause long-term problems, including musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other problems.\r\n\r\nLuckily, there are a few ways to avoid or minimize the use of awkward positions.\r\n\r\nFirst, wear an elastic band, and "snap" yourself - hard! - anytime you catch yourself sitting in an awkward position or working in a way that is uncomfortable.\u00a0 This could mean:\r\n\r\n \tslouching\r\n \tsitting with poor posture\r\n \tholding your arms in a fixed position for too long (such as holding a phone to your ear)\r\n \tcraning your neck to hold a phone\r\n\r\nAnytime you do one of these things, snap that elastic band to condition yourself to stop doing it!\r\n\r\nYou can also set a timer to take frequent breaks, so that you aren't sitting in an awkward position for hours on end.\r\n\r\nI like to use my phone to set alarms every 15 minutes.\u00a0 Then, you can hit snooze on the alarm each time it goes off, do a minute of stretching and exercise, and continue with your work.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThis only adds up to about 4 minutes per hour, or half an hour in a standard work day.\u00a0 However, your improved productivity will more than make up for the exercise breaks.\u00a0 If need be, you can make up the time by working a little later.\r\nHeight of Feet\r\nBelieve it or not, the height of your feet when you are sitting can be an important factor in ergonomics.\u00a0 If your feet are too high up (not exactly touching the ground), then your chair is probably too high.\r\n\r\nIf you can adjust the chair, make the change so that your feet rest comfortably on the ground when you sit.\u00a0 If the chair doesn't adjust, get a new one, or find some type of footrest that you can put under your desk.\r\n\r\nWhile we're on the topic of feet, make sure that you are wearing comfortable shoes with the proper support.\u00a0 This is especially true if you use a standing workstation for part of the day.\r\n\r\nRemember that you don't wear cheap shoes - cheap shoes wear you!\r\nComputer Screen Height\r\nRemember that the top of your computer screen should be about level with your eyes.\u00a0 This is just a guideline - do what is comfortable for you.\r\n\r\nGenerally, you'll know if the screen is too low when you get a stiff neck (laptop neck!) from staring down at the screen.\r\n\r\nOf course, if you put the laptop on a stand, then the screen might be at the proper height for your eyes, but then the keyboard is too high for your hands and arms.\r\n\r\nThe solution is to use a USB (or wireless) keyboard and mouse.\u00a0 You can plug both of these items into a USB multi hub if your computer is short on USB ports.\u00a0 This might not be the most practical solution at an airport or on the go, but it helps me tremendously when I work at home.\r\nHeavy Satchel\r\nIf you use a satchel that you sling over one arm to carry your laptop or other work gear, you might want to reconsider.\u00a0 This is another awkward posture, and even switching between one shoulder and the other will probably not help.\r\n\r\nA better solution is to use a backpack instead, and wear it on both shoulders, to balance the load you are carrying.\r\nPoor Sleep Related to Work\r\nYou might be wondering what sleep has to do with ergonomics.\u00a0 Let me explain.\r\n\r\nIf you get a poor night's sleep, you will be less productive the next day.\u00a0 You might need to keep working late, staring at a computer screen well past dark.\r\n\r\nStudies have shown that this "blue light" primes our bodies for a day of being awake - not for eight hours of sleep!\u00a0 Thus, you will be in for another night of poor sleep, followed by another long day of lower productivity.\r\n\r\nThe only way to break out of this vicious cycle is to get a better sleep.\u00a0 To get a better sleep, you need to reduce or eliminate the blue light you are exposed to at night.\r\n\r\nOne way to do this is to stop looking at computer, television, and phone screens a couple of hours before bed.\u00a0 Depending on your family and work life, this may not always be practical.\r\n\r\nAnother way is to install a program on your devices that will reduce blue light.\u00a0 One such program is f.lux, which you can download here.\r\n\r\nAnother thing to avoid late in the day is food or drinks containing caffeine or sugar.\u00a0 Try to finish dinner at least two to three hours before bed - no midnight snacks!\u00a0 Sometimes, lying down right after eating can be uncomfortable, and you won't be able to get to sleep right away.\r\n\r\nWhile we are on the topic of things to avoid at night, I should mention exercise. \u00a0 It is best to avoid exercise late at night, and do your workout early or midday.\r\n\r\nA strenuous workout will make it difficult to sleep right afterwards.\u00a0 However, a good workout in the morning will make it more likely that you will get a good sleep that night.\r\nUnpleasant Work Environment\r\nEven if your work environment is merely uninspiring, as opposed to unpleasant, it can still negatively impact your health and productivity.\r\n\r\nThere are a few things to consider when setting up your workstation at home.\r\n\r\nFirst, choose paint colors for your walls that make you feel energized, instead of tired or lethargic.\r\n\r\nOnce you have done that, make sure to use lighting that is appropriate for the task at hand.\u00a0 You might need lots of light for drawing artwork by hand, but not as much for working on the computer.\r\n\r\nFinally, do something to make the space a little more alive and personal.\u00a0 I like to have plants nearby.\u00a0 This makes me feel like I am caring for my office when I care for my plants.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIt is also a good idea to have pictures of family and friends on your desk or in the room, to remind you of why you do the work that you do.\u00a0 They can inspire you in tough times and make you feel grateful in good times.\r\nSedentary Lifestyle\r\nSitting at a desk or in a car for too long has negative effects on any person's health.\u00a0 As mentioned before, you can avoid some of these negative effects by minimizing time spent sitting.\u00a0 Use a standing desk for part of the day, or use speech recognition software to record some of your thoughts.\r\n\r\nFor driving, think about how you can minimize the trips you take to reduce your time spent sitting.\u00a0 If you currently work in an office, see if you can work remotely just one day a week.\u00a0 Even this small change can have a large positive impact on your health!\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nFor more information on how to start working remotely, check out my article on how to write a telecommuting proposal.\r\nLearn from People who Know\r\nThere are plenty of books to read concerning ergonomics for different professions.\u00a0 You can also ask some of your coworkers to see what works for them - and what doesn't.\r\n\r\nYou can also use government resources, such as those provided online by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.\u00a0 You can go here to check out the OSHA website.\r\n\r\nYou might even be able to convince your employer to pay for employees to take online courses related to ergonomics and best practices.\r\n\r\nThe selling point is that this training would decrease injuries and downtime for employees, while also improving productivity.\u00a0 This means a more profitable company, which can then pay employees more, improving morale and productivity - need I go on?\r\nWhat if I am Already Injured?\r\nIf you have already been injured due to poor ergonomics, don't lose hope!\u00a0 You can still stage a recovery, or at the very least, adopt a different work flow that will allow you to continue without pain.\r\nTherapy\r\nFirst, you should consider seeing an occupational or physical therapist.\r\n\r\nAn occupational therapist can help you to perform tasks you need to do in life and work.\u00a0 An occupational therapist can help you to determine your goals and work towards them.\r\n\r\nA physical therapist can help you to regain physical ability lost due to an injury. This may include specialized stretching and exercises.\r\nLife Balance\r\nYou should also make sure that you are living a balanced life.\u00a0 This means avoiding too much stress, or finding ways to deal with stress more effectively.\r\n\r\nOne good way of dealing with stress is to start exercising more.\u00a0 This could mean taking up a sport or an active hobby like hiking or biking.\r\n\r\nEating a good diet goes hand in hand with exercise.\u00a0 Some people believe that a good diet is even more important than exercise in improving and maintaining health.\r\n\r\nIf you exercise and eat right, then you will be stronger and better able to recover from injuries, or resist injury in the first place.\r\n\r\nAs mentioned earlier, getting a good sleep will make you more productive at work, but it will also make you healthier.\u00a0 Once you start exercising and eating better, you will naturally start to sleep better as well.\r\n\r\nIsolation due to working at home can also have a negative impact on your health.\u00a0 If this describes you, then check out my article on how to avoid isolation when working from home.\r\nConclusion\r\nI hope this article gave you some ideas about how to improve ergonomics in your home office, or wherever you work from.\r\n\r\nErgonomics is not just about avoiding injury, but also improving productivity.\u00a0 Living a balanced and healthy life is one of the best ways to do this.\r\n\r\nIf you have any ideas you would like to share, please leave them in the comments below.