The workspace decisions we have been making over the past 15 months have started to take their toll, and research shows that nearly 70% of employees report experiencing pain or discomfort at the end of their working day (CISWP, 2021). Our mental health has also suffered as a result. The work-life conflict experienced by employees, now compared to pre-pandemic times, has increased by 42% (CISWP, 2021).
Protecting your health and wellbeing is critical, whether you continue to work from home or will be returning to work on a part-time or full-time basis. The following tips will help to ensure your long-term comfort, productivity and health.
Pick an appropriate workspace
Choose a quiet, low-traffic area in your home. No one wants to work in a dark basement nor a busy kitchen table. The space should allow you to focus on your work while allowing you to walk away from work at the end of the day. A dedicated workspace makes developing a work-life balance easier and helps to protect your mental wellbeing because you can leave the space when work hours are done.
Picking an appropriate workspace also includes picking a space with appropriate lighting levels. For example, having bright windows oriented at 90 degrees to your monitor can help to minimize glare and eye fatigue.
Ensure you have the right equipment
Choosing the right equipment is important for your physical well-being. A safe posture cannot be achieved while using a laptop as your primary input and visual device. Ideal posture is achieved by using properly fitted equipment for your computer workstation: having a desk that is at your seated elbow height; the top of the monitor positioned at or slightly below eye height, and the mouse and keyboard at seated elbow height and at the same level. It is also crucial to have a chair with adequate lumbar support, and a seat pan of the right depth and width.
As a general rule, you should take a break every 30 – 60 minutes. This means stepping away from your workspace, even if it’s just for a minute or two. These breaks are important to allow for changes in body posture as well as for a mental break from work. Regular eye breaks are also encouraged; take a look out the window and focus on something further away to give the eyes a break.
Ask for help
Ask your employer what resources are available in form of equipment, training, or ergonomics assessments. There are several general guidelines available online to help you get started with setting up your workspace. However, for more personalized and specialized assessments, check out the directory of consultants at the Association of Canadian Ergonomists and look for an ergonomist certified through the Canadian College for the Certification of Professional Ergonomists.