Many home business entrepreneurs work in their homes, without giving much thought to the space they call the office. They fail to realize that a little more planning can improve their workspace and make work efficient, productive and safe.
To cut down the costs of creating a home office, many entrepreneurs make do with what they have with no consideration as to how their working conditions can affect their bodies. As a result, they pay the price in terms of body aches, pains, doctor’s bills, decreased productivity, even loss of business. Some even develop disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injuries.
Some sit on a chair the whole day typing on the computer, which can cause back pain, aches, and stiffness. Others plop up on the couch and bend their backs while writing. The notorious habit of cradling a phone between the head and shoulder can cause stress on the neck. A person wearing bifocals working on a monitor set too high will need to tip back his or her head to see, which may lead to neck pain. Some work on chairs that are either too high or too low and lights that may be too bright or too dark.
The workplace safety issue has grown tremendously in the past few years. A science called “Ergonomics” has developed in response to increasing concerns about protecting workers from injuries. Nope, this doesn’t mean “expensive furniture,” as many entrepreneurs believe it to be. Rather, ergonomics simply means fitting tools and furniture to people and preventing injuries caused by repetitive motion, awkward posture, force or vibration.
Unlike an employee who depends on corporate management to ensure a safer workplace, home-based entrepreneurs must put ergonomics as a priority when creating the home office. Entrepreneurs need to understand that poor working conditions have their costs: lost productivity and increased healthcare bills.
There are a number of measures to create a safer environment while working at home, particularly for business owners who use computers all the time. Here are some of them:
- Position the computer monitor so that the top of the screen is eye-level, or slightly lower for bifocal lens wearers. Place the monitor as far from your face as possible, or about 15 and 32 inches between the screen and the eye. Eyeglass wearers need to have a pair specially created for computer use.
- The screen must be free of glare and reflections. Keep the monitor at an angle to or away from bright light. Avoid putting the computer facing a window, as it will reflect light. The computer must not be placed behind a window, as the glare from outside can hurt the eyes.
- The feet should be flat on the floor. To help elevate the feet, consider a footrest to improve comfort and blood flow. Knees higher than the hips can significantly reduce strain on the lower back.
- Consider getting a standing desk and wearing shoe insoles with proper cushioning if you feel like you’re having increased back pain from sitting for long periods of time.
- Adjust the height of the chair to the body. The chair should have adjustable armrests, and arms should hang loosely and comfortably at the sides.
- The back and seat pan must follow the body’s natural curve to support the lower back when sitting on the chair.
- Get chairs with five legs and castors for support and mobility.
- When typing, wrists should be straight and horizontal to the work surface. Elbow should be at a right angle. Comfort can be increased by using a padded wrist rest in front of the keyboard. If desired, use an ergonomic keyboard. Make sure that the mouse is within reach.
- For heavy phone users, consider getting a phone headset.
- Match the lighting with the task. Detailed and focused tasks require a desk and table lamps, while general room lighting requires overhead lights or floor lamps.
- Take time to rest and give your muscles and body a break from time to time. Use the break time to exercise and massage the hands
Recommended Books on Setting Up the Home Office:
- The Smarter Home Office: 8 simple steps to increase your income, inspiration and comfort
- Working from a Home Office Successfully: Best Practice Tips
- Building the Custom Home Office: Projects for the Complete Home Work Space
- Stomp the Elephant in the Office: Put an End to the Toxic Workplace, Get More Done — and Be Excited About Work Again
Originally published on November 20, 2012. Updated on March 26, 2020
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