Working From Home? Try These DIY Ergonomic Workstation Tips

By Dr. Rudy Gehrman, DC.

You may have heard “sitting is the new smoking.” A statement I tend to agree with. Research has linked sitting for long periods with health problems including obesity and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Since our homes have now become our offices, we need to consider healthy ergonomic workstation solutions more than ever, as most of our homes have not been outfitted correctly to be full-time offices for an extended (although temporary) time. The information contained here will give you some ideas and solutions to minimize your new home office causing you any unnecessary aches and pains during this new way of life.

6 tips for creating your ergonomic workstation:

  1. Motion is life and our musculoskeletal system is like clay, whatever position you hold it in for an extended period of time will remold your structures. Molding into a ‘bad posture’ can lead to repetitive stress injuries. Motion is life, and the more variety of workplace positions, the better off you will be.
  2. Subscribe to the 20-minute sitting rule: Sit for 20 minutes, then ideally stand for 20 mins at an alternative standing workstation, and consider an alternative sitting surface (listed below). If a standing workstation is not an option, please try and take your phone calls/meetings standing when possible.
  3. Be ambidextrous: We all have subconscious motion habits and most of us have dominant/strong sides. People tend to have too many things on one side of their desk versus the other side, which leads them to lean more times during the day to that certain side, resulting in your chair wearing out/tilting to that side. Try and be as ambidextrous as possible while sitting and standing. Count how many times you reach for items on the right side of your desk versus left, and then set up your work surface to promote 50% of reaching to the right and left. This will lead to your chair lasting longer.
  4. A routine visual inspection should happen every month: Think of a chair like a mattress or pair of shoes, they wear out after some time. So not spending a significant amount of money is what I advise, save your money for the next affordable/adjustable chair. If it is starting to tip to one side, it is time for a new chair, as this can cause an injury. Consider assessing how ambidextrous you are if this is occurring, as this should not be happening if you are cognizant of this tip. This is one more reason why I like physioball chairs (listed below) used intermittently, as it forces you to be straight.
  5. Implement the 90-degree sitting rule: Anytime you’re at your desk, you should be seated in the 90-90-90 Position. This means that your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle, your hips should be at a 90-degree angle, and your knees should be at a 90-degree angle, with your feet flat on the floor beneath your chair. Your ears should be aligned above the shoulders, and the shoulder should be aligned above the hip, for an ideal spinal position.
  6. DIY standing workstation: If you’ve got a spare chest of drawers lying around, chances are it will make for a decent standing desk. You can store all your stuff in the drawers and then just place your computer up on top. Certain bookshelves/bookcases may work well, too, if they’re tall enough. Consider any excess furniture in your home as a potential standing desk and go from there. Also, consider kitchen countertops. Another consideration could be placing your adjustable office chair on top of your desk and let your laptop, or monitor sit on it. In most cases, this should bring your computer’s display to eye level and you can work standing up. You’ll just have to figure out where to put the external keyboard and mouse.

Try these sitting solutions for your ergonomic workstation:

  • Inexpensive adjustable chair: Modway Articulate Ergonomic Mesh Office Chair
    Why inexpensive? I always advise patients that they should budget for an adjustable chair like this, to enable a budget on a standing workstation option, and an alternative sitting option. Why adjustable, because without adjustability, you won’t be able to custom fit yourself into your workstation. A cushioned seat, like this, will alleviate pressure on your glutes during sitting. Also, make sure it can swivel.
  • Alternative sitting surfaces:
    • Gaiam Classic Balance Ball Chair
      I like physioballs as a sitting surface to be used intermittently, as they promote symmetrical core muscle recruitment, forcing you to naturally sit up straighter. Intermittent use is suggested, as most people’s erector muscles do not have enough endurance to use for extended periods. Additionally, this is still considered sitting, and alternating sitting and standing is highly advised.
    • DRAGONN Ergonomic Kneeling Chair
      These are recommended for intermittent use as well, always considering this is still considered sitting, and alternating sitting and standing is highly advised. The advantage of this style of chairs is that they put you in a more upright position. An in-between sitting and standing, if you will. This will semi lengthen your hip flexors, which get tight while sitting. It will take some pressure off your glute/hamstring muscles, as putting too much pressure on a muscle for a length of time will inevitably weaken that group of muscles. Additionally, this chair will recruit core/erector muscles more so than a standard chair. Intermittent use is suggested, as most people’s erector muscles do not have enough endurance to use for extended periods. This type of chair also promotes a more neutral lumbar/low back spine curve, called lordosis resulting in even pressure throughout your low back intervertebral discs.

If you’re working from home and bad workstation ergonomics is causing you pain, contact us by phone or by filling out the form below for more advice and telehealth based solutions:

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