Tips for a Better Home Office

Many people, including older adults, are spending more hours in front of the computer while working from home, connecting with friends and family, keeping up on the news or playing online games to stay mentally sharp.  But spending too many hours, especially in a poor position, can start to cause all sorts of aches and pains. 

When setting up a home office space, even if it’s at the kitchen table, it’s important to pay attention to how the computer monitor, the chair, the keyboard and the mouse are positioned.  To prevent neck strain, your eyes should be level with the top third of the screen; you can use books or a cooling stand to keep a laptop at a more optimal height to prevent neck and shoulder problems.   To minimize eye fatigue try to gaze at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. 

It’s also important to get up and move around at least every hour for 10 minutes or so. Try some gentle stretching or take a stroll to refill your water or tea and grab a healthy snack. When seated, feet should be able to sit flat on the floor, place a book or box under feet until they are supported at roughly a 90-degree angle.  If you cross your ankles while sitting, remember to uncross them and change positions frequently. If you are prone to slumping while sitting at your work station, try using a rolled-up towel to support the lower back. 

A standing desk can also alleviate discomfort and stiffness from sitting too long.  At home, a kitchen counter or dresser that hits about elbow height can suffice using books or other props to raise the screen to eye level.  Keep things you need within close reach to avoid twisting or reaching that may cause injury. 

Finally, an organized, clean workspace can improve mood, reduce stress and increase productivity.  Try to have access to natural light and add a plant to your home office to bring a little of the outdoors inside.  

For more information about office ergonomics, follow this link to a how-to guide by the Mayo Clinic’s Adult Health section.