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Embracing Ergonomics, Even in the Home Office


A woman working at how in an ergonomic way
Image: PhotoPlus+ -
Like many people who have spent a significant portion of 2020 working from home, I have developed a set of, well, bad work habits. Many mornings, I roll out of bed, throw some clothes on, fire up the coffee pot, catch some news, and then sit down to start my workday. I have become a “WFH goblin,” if you will — spending long hours hunched over a desk piled high with books, bills, notebooks, and various knick-knacks as I frantically type away in a cold, poorly lit, cave-like space I’ve claimed for my home office.
It just happens that I was pondering my workplace dilemma, as I often do in my WorkSpace Connect articles, that I came across this Wall Street Journal video setting up your work desk ergonomically. The video runs through the basics of setting up a work desk — making sure your chair supports your back, your hands are at a 90-degree angle from the keyboard, the monitor is at eye level, etc.
The video ends with arguably the most important tip: Get up and move around at least once every hour. I get up to refresh my coffee and to let the dogs out, and I get out for lunch. But I don’t take that advice to a tee, especially when rushing to meet a deadline or otherwise wrapped up in the workday.
All these are valid tips and can prevent serious health problems in the future. But I wonder if their simplicity is the problem. They are so simple that we often forget them, so just around the corner, bad habits await.
At this point, many companies have rolled out WFH kits and programs for equipping their workers with the tools that they need to do their jobs. These kits can include technology to improve the video experience (headsets, monitors, speakers) and basic office amenities like desk, chairs, and footrests. This is a good start, but how do you ensure that they’re using them correctly, with ergonomics in mind? How do you reinforce healthy, productive work habits?
For things like headsets and speakers, IT would surely be able to track usage. But what about tracking posture and making sure your employees go out for a breath of air every once and a while? Wellness apps can help get you up and moving, but they can only go so far. And while you want to check in with employees, you don’t want to be so overbearing that they feel spied on.
Ultimately, it must come down to workplace culture: Leadership must talk about these issues and stress the importance of working ergonomically — the backbone of a robust employee experience (pun intended). HR departments should have ideas on ways to engage workers on the topic of ergonomics, and IT can help find tools and applications to reinforce some behaviors. You might hesitate in taking up this issue, but trust me, your workers (and their backs) will thank you for it in the long run.