If you are a work at home mom, this quick guide to ergonomics may help you design your workplace to suit your needs. Simply put, ergonomics is the practice of designing an office to fit the worker, decreasing the chance of repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
This is particularly necessary for you as a work-at-home mom, because most of us work wherever we can--in the car, at the kitchen table or on cast-off office furniture. These areas are not specifically designed to meet your needs, but if you have a workspace, you can significantly increase your comfort with these trouble-free fixes:
Replace Worn Out Items
As old office furniture or equipment wears out, make an effort to replace these items with ergonomically-designed new ones. There are hundreds of ergonomically-correct office chairs out there that are specifically designed to correct your posture. There are dozens of computer keyboards that ease the stress on your wrists to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. It's worth spending a little extra money to guarantee your comfort.
If you cannot afford new office furniture, you can customize what you have with the use of props such as footrests, lumbar support pillows, or even towels. These are inexpensive fixes that can greatly increase your comfort.
Reposition Your Office
Take a few minutes to reposition your office furniture and equipment so you are sitting correctly:
- Your chair should keep your elbows, knees and hips at slightly wider than 90 degree angles. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor.
- Your keyboard should be centered with your body; for example, the letter "b" should be centered with your belly.
- Your computer screen should be set at 2-3 inches above eye level.
Use Your Mouse Wisely
The mouse is a fantastic computer tool but all too often, we misuse it. Improper mouse use can increase your chance of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Don't hold it when you aren't using it, and try to find a model with a scroll wheel or tracking ball. Use keyboard shortcuts whenever you can. You can also try switching your mouse to the other hand occasionally.
Get Up and Move
Most experts recommend getting up and moving every 30 minutes. Sitting for too long tires your muscles and contributes to poor posture, so give yourself a 2 minute stretch every half hour. This will keep your muscles from getting too tired or too tight, and provides a refreshing break throughout your workday.
Maintain Good Posture
You can injure your back while performing the most mundane office tasks, particularly lifting anything with any weight. So practice good lifting practices by engaging your core muscles and lifting with your legs, not your back. Practice good posture when walking, typing, driving, and even talking on the phone. Maintaining good posture throughout the day will significantly decrease your back pain and chance of injuries.
Ergonomics has less to do with buying expensive equipment and more to do with being aware of your environment and tailoring your equipment to fit your needs. It's an affordable way to stay comfortable throughout the day--and by staying comfortable, you maximize your time and efficiency at work.______________________________
Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.