Whether you’re working in an office or from home, having the right workspace set-up can help you avoid what is becoming the fastest-growing category of workplace injury: Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD). MSDs such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis are often related to repetitive motion and stress injuries resulting from ergonomic stressors, like lifting heavy items, typing for too long on a computer, or sitting at a workstation in an awkward position.
What can you do to prevent getting an MSD? Here are some tips from worksite safety experts on how to use ergonomics—the practice of fitting a workplace to the employee’s needs—to help you stay healthy and avoid injuries on the job.
Adjust your chair
Ideally your workspace should have an adjustable chair that you can customize to work best for you. Specifically, you’ll want to pay attention to:
Customize your desk and computer
Your workspace should be set up with the following:
Don’t forget about your commute
Now that your workspace is set up ergonomically, what about the bag you carry to and from the office, or when traveling? Lighten your load by only carrying what is needed, or consider using a rolling bag or backpack to distribute the weight evenly to both sides of your body.
Alternate between sitting and standing
You may feel uncomfortable when sitting for too long, which is why many offices are beginning to implement standing desks or sit/stand workstations. Standing workstations allow you to work with a more neutral back posture when compared with seated work. However, standing requires more energy than sitting and can put stress on certain joints such as your hips, knees, or feet. It may be beneficial to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
Incorporate breaks and stretching into your routine
Listen to your body and take short breaks throughout the day when you start to feel any discomfort. This can help improve blood flow and keep working muscles fresh and loose. Not sure where to start? Check out our Stretching Examples pamphlet.
It is just as important to set up healthy habits when you work from home—even if you are only doing so occasionally or on a temporary basis. Take the time to create a defined workspace—if possible, in a well-lit room with as much natural light as possible. Invest in a good chair and consider getting a monitor and separate mouse and keyboard to avoid the strain of hunching over a tiny laptop. Take regular breaks to stand up and stretch; and above all, try not to succumb to the temptation of lounging on the couch while you work—your back will thank you!