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Home Office Ergonomics: Tips on Working Remotely

A man sitting at the couch for long periods of time might begin suffering from ergonomic injuries.

If you can work from home, you're lucky, but that do-it-yourself workstation can put you at risk of overuse injuries and strains.

With a laptop, it's tempting to work on the couch or even in bed. That may be comfy for now, but it could cause real problems down the line. Even if you're at a table or a desk, there's a chance the ergonomics aren't right.


"Your default work-from-home setup should be a table and a chair."


To learn more about working safely from home, we spoke with Patrick Williams, an expert on occupational health and the head of Cedars-Sinai's ergonomics team.

How bad is it to work from your bed?

Patrick Williams: Pretty bad! Besides the fact that using your bed as a workspace is bad for sleep, you risk neck, back, shoulder, wrist and eye problems.

Here's why: Even a firm mattress is too soft to support your spine, so your spine tends to curve.

Your head is bent forward and looking down, which strains everything from your back to your neck.



Your screen is too close to your face, increasing the risk of eye strain.

There's no way to have your elbows at 90 degrees, which is important for your shoulders and wrists.

What about the couch?

PW: You'll run into many of the same problems as working from a bed. Your default work-from-home setup should be a table and a chair. 



What are some tips to make a space more ergonomic while not breaking the bank?

PW: You don't need to break the bank on a fancy office desk if you follow these 10 tips:

  • If you can invest in one thing, make it a good chair. It should be adjustable for seat height, tilt, back height and lumbar support. It doesn't have to be expensive. 
  • For do-it-yourself lumbar support, roll up a towel. And if your chair is not high enough, sit on folded towels.
  • Make a resting place for your wrist by rolling up a washcloth. 
  • If your feet dangle, get a footrest (a sturdy box will work).
  • Set your seat height to make sure your elbows are bent to 90-100 degrees.
  • Take a five-minute break every hour to stand, walk around and do stretching exercises such as rolling your shoulders forward and backward.
  • Reduce eye strain by looking 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
  • Put frequently used items within easy reach so you're not straining your arms and back.
  • If you use dual monitors, they should be of equal height. The monitor you use the most should be in front of you.
  • Make sure your screen is the right distance away: Extend your arm and your screen should be just past your fingertips.