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A Guide to Home Office Ergonomics

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Are you sitting (un)comfortably? Then let’s talk about your chair.

A recent survey showed that aside from human interaction, the thing people missed most about their workplace was their office furniture. Chairs, monitors, desks and storage systems are workday necessities we take for granted. Transitioning from office to remote working has been as much of a shock to our backs as it has been to our brains as we strive to work comfortably from dining tables and sofas across the country. 

Mike McKeown, Managing Director of Tribe Furniture, and Travelling Ergonomist Kirsty Angerer talk us through the basics of furniture ergonomics so that we can manage with what we’ve got in our households.

Mike: “With Tribe’s collective knowledge of the furniture & workplace industry we understand the importance of having a great working environment no matter where you are. This ultimately comes down to ergonomics and making sure you’re following basic principles so that you can work productively, maintain focus, and maintain your health”.

“Many people won’t have a home office to work from and certainly not one that’s suitable for more than one person to use at once. In this situation, with several people trying to work under one roof and acclimatise to the new territory of home working together, we find that we are pitching up our “workspaces” wherever we can.”

Kirsty: “For that reason, we’ve set some guidelines to help people find more comfort and efficiency using the things they have to hand.” 

PRO SET-UP

For those lucky enough to have an adjustable chair, a standard fixed desk, desktop or laptop computer, external monitor, mouse and keyboard:

  • Place your feet flat on the floor and make sure you have a 2 inch gap between the back of your knee and the front edge of the seat. Adjust your backrest so you are supported in your lumbar/lower back area and adjust your armrests to your natural elbow position (or lower them out of the way if they’re not in use).
  • Sit right back into your chair so you gain the full support of your backrest and try to sit in a slightly reclined position so that you open your hip flexors and your chest. This will help you to breathe better and create better blood circulation.
  • Bring yourself to your desk. Your desktop should be the same height as your natural elbow position (when hands are in your lap). If you are too low, raise your chair so that your elbows are the same height as your desktop and add a footrest for lower body support.
  • Adjust your monitor so that the top line of text is at eye level and the monitor is an arm’s length away when you are seated properly.
  • Keep your keyboard and mouse close to the edge of the desk to avoid awkward posturing or unnecessary stretching.
  • Move regularly. 2-3 times per hour for 30-60 seconds. Alternatively, 5 minutes every hour.
  • If you have a laptop, you can use this as a secondary screen but prop this up to eye level with a laptop stand or a set of books. Alternatively, close the laptop and just use the external monitor.

 

MAKE DO SET-UP

For those with access to a dining room table and chair, a laptop, laptop stand, and external keyboard and mouse:

  • Plant your feet comfortably on the floor. If you find you are now away from your chair backrest, add enough cushions so that they meet your back to give you some support. Alternatively sit right back into your chair and if you can’t reach the floor get yourself a footrest to support your lower body.
  • Bring yourself close to the table.
  • Set up your laptop stand so the top of the laptop is at eye level and an arm’s length away.
  • Keep your keyboard and mouse close to the edge of the desk to avoid unnecessary stretching or awkward posturing.
  • Move regularly. 2-3 times per hour for 30-60 seconds. Alternatively, 5 minutes every hour.
  • When you are sat in a chair with your shoulders down and relaxed, elbows by your side, feet flat on the floor and looking straight ahead this constitutes a pretty neutral posture. Try to create this posture in whatever environment you find yourself in.

 

BASIC SETUP

For those with only a laptop:

  • If you find yourself with only a laptop and no additional accessories use your sofa or bed as your seat. If you are on your sofa sit in a reclined position and add a cushion or rolled up towel to your lower back to give you some additional support.
  • Place the laptop in your lap. When your laptop is in your lap it will reduce shoulder shrugging and keep your elbows by your side.
  • If you have a tray at home or some kind of mat, it might be useful to put this between your lap and laptop. Laptops can get hot over a period of time particularly when they are so close to your body so you want to make sure you are not putting yourself at risk.
  • If you are in your bed, try to sit upright as much as you can and prop your back up, particularly your lower back with additional cushions.
  • Push the laptop screen as far back as you can see it comfortably so that you can view the full screen by moving your eyes up and down rather than bending your neck. If you look at your laptop with a head tilted down for too long, it can cause tension across the neck and shoulders.
  • Every 20-30 minutes take the strain off your body and get up from this position, stretch lightly, move around, keep hydrated and go back.
  • Use headphones or earphones so that your hands are free, and you are not cradling your phone between your cheek and shoulder.

Kirsty continues “Working from home can cause us to move less than when we are in the office. Whatever your setup, put in place a routine where you can move regularly.”

“Every hour, you should be moving for a couple of minutes as an absolute minimum. Two or three occasions per hour would be more ideal. You can download a free app called ‘Stand Up’ which will prompt you to stand up at intervals you choose. Alternatively, try adding recurring meetings in your calendar called ‘take a break’ or ‘time to move’ and this will prompt you to move. If you are taking calls and you are able to pace around your home or garden, do that. The more movement the better.”

“Drink a small glass of water every hour and open your windows to get some fresh air whilst you’re working. Try and find a space that has natural light and is brighter in general to keep your mood up. Create some ambience by putting on some music on or the TV in the background at a low noise level.”

"Following these guidelines will help you gain efficiency, stay focused and and mantain your mental and physical wellbeing"

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