Over the past several months, working from home has become the standard for many people across the country, which means more employees have to adjust to a new workspace on the fly.
Although working from home has its perks, an abrupt change to a workspace routine can be challenging. As employees learn how to balance work tasks and home life, here are some tips for setting up a healthy and functional home office that can boost productivity as well as support mental and physical health.
Create an ergonomic desk setup
Whether you work from home or in the office, a proper ergonomic setup can avoid discomfort and musculoskeletal problems, which can save on costs associated with absenteeism, low productivity and health care.1
Not everyone has access to the same equipment and ergonomic tools at home, so you should make the best of what you have using these guidelines.
How to set up a sitting desk
- Keep the monitor at eye level. Use books to stack your monitor, if needed.
- Keep the keyboard flat on the work surface.
- Set the chair armrests at elbow height, so your elbows are at the keyboard level and wrists are straight while typing.
- Sit back in the chair.
- Use a footrest for leg support.
- Adjust the lumbar support on the chair so it supports the small of your back. If the chair doesn’t have lumbar support, use a pillow, rolled-up towel or paper towel roll to support the lower back.
How to set up a standing desk
- Place the monitor at arm’s length. The monitor should also be at eye level.
- Keep the keyboard and mouse on the same level as the desk.
- Maintain straight wrists while typing, with the hands at or below the elbow level and arms close to the body.
- Stand up straight, with the head, neck, torso and legs in a natural posture.
Avoid too much sedentary time
Getting up and moving during the day can help refresh the mind and body and avoid discomfort caused by sitting or standing in the same position.
One way to stay moving is to walk during phone calls. If it’s not necessary to be in front of the computer for the call, try walking around the house, neighborhood or backyard.
During a busy day, employees can also try to fit in some simple desk stretches, such as:
- Neck roll — Lower your head to your chest and rotate slowly to one side, then the other.
- Chest stretch — Clasp your hands together behind your back and slowly lift your arms away from your body.
- Small back bend — Place your hands on your lower back and gently lean back while lifting your chest and chin to the sky.
- Hip stretch — Lift your right foot behind you and hold it with your right hand, pressing your hips forward and squeezing your glutes. Repeat with the other side.
- Hamstring stretch — Bend your left leg and place your right leg forward with your heel on the ground. Put your left hand on your hip and reach toward the right foot with the right hand. Repeat on the other side.
Set up a routine for success
A healthy home office environment is about more than equipment and posture — it also means maintaining best practices for mental health and productivity. Try these tips.
- Get organized
A home office space should be quiet and well-lit. Ideally, try to place your home office in a place that is easily closed off from the rest of the house. Creating a boundary can help communicate working time to other family members at home and make it easier to “leave” work at the end of the day.
- Create a to-do list
Balancing work and home life can have its challenges, but creating a to-do list at the beginning of the day is a powerful way to manage your time and responsibilities.
- Avoid time-wasters
If possible, try to put your phone away and close email applications while focusing on a specific task. Instead, set aside specific times to return calls and messages.
- Schedule personal time
You can maintain health and well-being goals at home by making sure you schedule time for healthy meals, exercise and relaxation. If possible, start your day with 15 minutes of meditation, yoga stretches or a quick walk.
- Avoid overworking
It’s crucial to leave space for breaks during the day and to set specific start and stop times for work. If you have kids at home, try to schedule lunch together or take a break and prep dinner together. This can help you better balance your personal and professional life.
- Have patience
Keep in mind that everyone is learning and adapting to new environments, so be patient as you transition to home office life. You may not reach maximum productivity every day, and that’s OK. Ultimately, maintaining well-being at home may lead to better collaboration and a healthier, happier work-life balance.
Learn more on how to inspire well-being in the workplace.
1 Work-related musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomics. Last reviewed, Feb. 2020. Accessed April 8, 2020. cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/health-strategies/musculoskeletal-disorders/index.html.