The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agency, which oversees workplace ergonomics, defines the term simply as fitting a job to a person. OSHA has applied this science to reduce the likelihood and severity of contracting musculoskeletal disorders in the office, including carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and rotator cuff injuries.
Yet most remote workspaces — including airplanes, hotel rooms and restaurants —have neither OSHA compliance rules nor outside reviews for ergonomics. Their tables and seats lack optimal support for laptops and even mobile devices. Thus, they can put potential strains on your muscles in your hands, arms and back while you have work away from your desk.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent and counteract situations that can threaten your health and safety so that you get the most done when you’re traveling from work. Here are some best practices to keep in mind.
- Assume proper form. To prevent discomfort while typing, especially in your forearms, you want your wrists to be flat. Therefore, adjust the height of your keyboard so that your shoulders are relaxed and elbows are bent to 90 degrees and resting at your sides. You can achieve this anywhere by adjusting the height of your keyboard or chair, and if you can’t do the latter, prop up yourself or your laptop with a pillow or sturdy setting underneath to keep a neutral position. For more specifics on best posture, OSHA has an “eTool” for creating an ergonomic computer workstation at any location.
- Make a PACT for products with mobile ergonomics. That’s PACT as in products featuring Portability, Adjustability, Compatibility and Trustworthiness. Accessories that are easy to transport, change, and easy to sync with and secure in connecting to other devices make it much more convenient to work away from the office than those lacking these aspects.
- Get rest and get cozy. There are exercises to prevent and heal carpal tunnel and repetitive stress injuries, two prominent musculoskeletal disorders associated with poor ergonomics at work. Perform them frequently when you have some free time at or away from your computer. When at your workspace, check to see you have enough lighting and ventilation to be productive. Avoid sharp or hard edges that can hurt your wrists and hands. And keep your feet comfortable, but not too casual — no flip-flops!
- Design an ergonomically appropriate home office. If you work from home frequently, you want to have an adjustable swivel chair, a desk with enough space and height to accommodate your computer and accessories comfortably, and proper lighting to prevent eyestrain. This makeover can be done for less than $1,000, which may sound a little pricy to you, but not when you consider the long-term costs of stresses and injuries that can result with it.
Do you have any ergonomics tips of your own to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!