Poor home office set-up puts my mate Nat in hospital

My friend Nat from Sheppard Ecology is doing what many others are in the Northern Rivers area (and the world): setting up a home business.  She was cracking into one of her projects at home one day when she started to get pains in her neck and pins and needles in her head, which she attributed to a slipped disc.

The pain escalated and Nat found herself in an A&E waiting room. The doctor pointed outpointed out that several years of poor posture at the desk may have been a factor in the neck pain. She went home and had a look at her home office set-up.

I’m no occupational therapist but I have had plenty of office setups done by such practitioners over my time, and I know the basics.  While other factors such as monitor height and distance to the keyboard were also at fault, there were three key issues with her home set-up, in my view:

  1. clutter (lack of working room)
  2. chair (wrong support)
  3. desk height (wrong height)

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to taking a casual approach to my home office.  We contractors (and growing numbers of office workers too) often work from a laptop.  I believe it is much harder to achieve a good workstation setup for laptops, and also much easier to take your laptop and sit somewhere comfy like a couch, or convenient like the kitchen bench.

Here are my top tips for working from laptops in your home office:

  1. Set up a desk for the majority of your work. Even if you move about during the day, which is fine, make sure you have a good desk-based workstation for the bulk of your office day.
  2. Lift your laptop, and get a separate keyboard and mouse.  Laptop keyboards and mice are not set up for long duration work.
  3. Finally, and most importantly, get your chair and desk right. This website can help you with your dimensions.

Ensure that you invest in a good chair, preferably with no arm rests. Then ensure your desk isn’t too high above it. You want your forearms horizontal as you type and use the mouse.

If, like Nat, you find yourself experiencing aching, pain, tingling, or numbness, first thing would be to review your workstation set up and see if it helps.  An Occupational Therapist is your next port of call if you still can’t get it right.