TEXAS MUTUAL SPONSORED CONTENT — With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, large numbers of Texans have found themselves working from home these past few months. While this precaution reduces the risk of infection, working in an improperly oriented environment can lead to injuries of the neck, wrists, back and tendons. But just because a location changes, that doesn’t mean individuals can’t create a comfortable, productive and healthy space in which to work.
Ergonomics is the science of creating a workspace that allows a person to do their job efficiently and safely. As the state’s leading workers’ comp provider, Texas Mutual Insurance Company has a long history of advocating for ergonomic workspaces, tools and techniques. By providing your employees with the information they need to adapt their home offices, you’ll be reducing the risk of injury and helping improve worker productivity.
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage or spinal disks. These ailments are a significant cause of worker injuries and illnesses, affecting productivity and increasing absenteeism. Working in an improper environment can lead to long term problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, inflamed tendons, muscle strains and injuries of the fingers, shoulders and back. Fortunately, using sound ergonomic practices can reduce the risk of these injuries and help improve the working experience.
As an employer, there are things you can do to help your employees stay safe and healthy while working from home. OSHA recommends providing ergonomic training, getting workers involved in the process, encouraging early reporting of MSD symptoms, implementing solutions when problems arise and evaluating progress on a regular basis.
Here are a few helpful tips for creating the right environment while working from home:
- Treat your home like an office. Establish a regular routine and arrange it as you would a workspace in a business setting.
- When sitting, make sure your chair allows a neutral spine position. This does not mean straight; it means a comfortable position that allows the spine to follow its natural curve.
- Set your desk at the proper height. Knees, feet and thighs should fit comfortably underneath, and you should be able to type without putting your arms in an inclined position.
- If you can, use an external monitor or laptop stand. This enables you to position the device in a way not possible with a self-contained laptop.
- Place your monitor for proper viewing. When looking at the middle of the screen, your eyes should be looking slightly downward.
- Position your monitor so that it is at least an arm’s length away.
- Set your keyboard at elbow height. As you type, make sure your wrists remain straight, and upper arms remain close to the body.
- Sit so that your feet are flat on the floor and your thighs are in a parallel position.
- Use a chair with lower back support. If that isn’t possible, use a pillow or rolled up towel to create the same effect.
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away to reduce the strain on your eyes.
It’s equally important to follow the same protocols you’d use in an office setting. Make sure to stand up and walk around at regular intervals, eat lunch and be sure to stay hydrated. At Texas Mutual, we realize that COVID-19 has required businesses and workers to adapt, and that more changes may be coming. We’re here to help with information on avoiding ergonomic injuries and tips for working at home. Find more COVID-19 information and resources on our Coronavirus Resources page.