Working from home without discomfort and maximising performance
“The most appropriate posture for the surgeon is to be seated, with his knees at a right angle and close together…As for seating height, his hands must not be higher than his breasts, while at the same time his chest must not touch his knees and the arms.
-Extracts from Hippocrates (460 - 370 BC) Source document: Kat'Ihtreion(About the hospital)
With such precise recommendations on how to position oneself, it may be all too easy to mistake the above extract as coming from a modern workplace ergonomic guideline. The recommendation on how a surgeon’s workspace should be designed is attributed to the 5th century BC Greek physician Hippocrates, and can be taken as an indication that the importance of workplace setup was recognised even in early Greek civilisation.
Although most of us may not be performing surgeries at home, as more people transit to working from home due to recent events, it is becoming more important to recognise how our work environment can have an impact on our bodies and work performance.
A person’s ability to work is dependent on the level of comfort one experiences. Prolonged or awkward postures can place strain on nerves, muscles and joints, resulting in fatigue and discomfort. The cumulative effects of fatigue can eventually result in pain and injury, which will impair both physical and cognitive capabilities. Curtailing the level of fatigue experienced at work through ergonomic design can not only prevent the progression of injury, but also improve productivity. Fortunately, there are some simple changes that can be easily made that can have a powerful effect on comfort and performance.
Most home offices will usually not be exposed to extremes of hot or cold temperature due to the indoor nature of the work environment. While the use of fans and air conditioning tend to negate the harmful effects of temperature extremes in the home office, these conditions can still cause discomfort and distraction if not well controlled.
Distraction and discomfort have a direct effect on performance, as it results in time off task. During the period when a person is uncomfortable and trying to adjust the environment to the desired comfort zone, performance and productivity will be zero.
By keeping the work environment within a comfortable temperature zone, unnecessary distraction and performance loss can easily be avoided.
Lighting in the home office should be adequate for the task. A work station that has inadequate lighting makes it hard to read, resulting in eye strain. Lighting that is too bright can result in glare, either by directly shining into the eyes or through reflected glare from surrounding objects.
This can be addressed by adjusting the light level, using a good quality antiglare screen, and focusing task lights directly onto work documents rather than the monitor. It is also advisable to avoid placing a monitor screen facing a bright window; sitting sidewards to a window helps to reduce unnecessary glare.
Noise can affect us in many ways. Prolonged exposure to raised sound levels can result in increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and in serious instances, hearing loss. Noise can also cause mental changes, such as annoyance, increased stress levels, mood irritability and reduced performance.
To reduce the impact of noise, the work station should be located in a dedicated quiet zone away from other living areas if feasible. Sound absorbing screens, the use of soft carpets, and the placement of plants to diffuse noise are all also viable ways of altering the environment to control noise.
The typical setup of a home office will usually involve prolonged hours sitting in front of a computer workstation. Chronic static postures, such as prolonged sitting, reduces blood flow and increases load on muscles and tendons. Blood flow is vital in sending nutrients to muscles and flushing away waste products. Restricting blood flow results in the build up of waste products and leads to fatigue, which is a precursor to injury.
Adopting a variety of postures during the work day is a simple but effective method of addressing postural-related fatigue. An optimal work pattern will consist of a period of sitting, with a change to working at a standing office desk and some stretching. This allows the body to use different muscle groups, thus allowing different body parts a chance to rest and recover.
Ready to work from home?
Working from home is likely to become part-and-parcel of life in the near future, but it does not have to be an uncomfortable or painful experience. Making some simple changes to the work station, such as those covered in the post, can make working from home comfortable and productive.
If you have any questions, or are interested in an ergonomic assessment, feel free to contact the clinic at 6581 9688, or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a pleasant experience working from home!