neck pain working from home on couch

Working From Home: A Safety Perspective

Working from home is a great perk, but it isn’t always slippers and pajamas. It takes discipline and trust from everyone, and there are risks you may not have anticipated. Fortunately there are also plenty of things you can do to avoid risk.

As an employer, there is no way to be sure an employee’s home is a safe work environment. But you can educate your team on risks that could effect them and provide some food for thought.

Set Clear and Defined Work Parameters

Guess what? Your home is now a workspace. This means that if you trip while walking to your desk it could be a workers’ compensation claim. Your organization could be liable for injuries that occur during an employee’s agreed upon work hours.

Consider drafting a telecommuting policy that includes hours, expectations, exceptions, contact info, productivity standards, reporting guidelines, confidentiality, and a list of district-owned equipment. Injury claims are not generally clear when working from home, but solid communication can avoid confusion later.

Ergonomics While Working at Home

Working from home can be great if you have a decent workspace, but some could be forced to work wherever they can.

Below are tips to make your home workstation a bit more ergonomic.

Ergonomic chairs are ideal, but few employers can afford to send one to everyone’s home. Consider allowing staff to borrow office chairs or other ergonomic items. Add a line item to your telecommuting agreement to cover any rules your district may have.

Tip: If you have a chair that is not very ergonomically friendly it can also be boosted with a mesh back support.

When working at a table, do your best to adjust the workspace to you. Start by adjusting your chair if you can. Place your monitor on a box, a couple reams of paper, or anything else to raise it to eye level. Adjust it so that you are looking straight ahead on the spot where you spend most of your time looking.

Tip: If your table has a sharp edge use a gel mouse and keyboard wrist rest to help save your wrists from painful pressure.

A footrest could be helpful for anyone who cannot quite touch the floor when they raise their chair up to the proper height. Using an external keyboard and mouse will help keep you away from the laptop.

Tip: Working on a laptop long term is not good for your neck, shoulders, back, and wrists. Try to find an alternative if possible.

Do your best to maintain 90° at your elbows and keep your wrists straight.

Stay off of the couch. Working from a couch even short term can hurt your back. If you have to work from your couch, avoid leaning forward over the coffee table and try to put some pillows or back support behind you so that you don’t stand up and feel stiff all over.

Ensure that you get up at least every hour to move around and stretch. See the list of stretches below that you can do at your desk.

More Working from Home Tips

Set a routine while you are at home. Get a workout in, have a cup of coffee, walk the dog, and then get your day going. Take advantage of not having a commute any longer and do something for you. Then get ready for a full day of work. I personally have found that I work best when I am comfortable. Put on clothes that you feel comfortable working in but won’t put you to sleep.

Set boundaries with other people at home. You might have a partner, kids, or friends living in the same house with you. Do your best to let them all know when they can and cannot interrupt you. Long term it will be helpful for everyone.

Define your workspace in a separate part of your house or apartment. If you have enough space, you can work out of an office or spare room. But that may not be possible for everyone. It could be that you use your dining room table. Whatever the case, try to make it yours so that you click the switch for work and then walk away when you’re done.

Let your manager or team know what you are working on or planning for the week. This not only helps keep you accountable but it helps build trust with your team. When everyone is there to help hold each other accountable.

Put together your to-do list and monitor it. You should always have a to-do list, but it can be even more effective to outline what you are going to accomplish for the day and check those items off. You will be amazed at how much you can get done.

Avoid working where you’ll be tempted or distracted. Decluttering your workspace can help you avoid distraction. If a household task does distract you, simply write it down so you can take care of it later.

Put on some background noise. Working in silence can be a challenge. Playing music, podcasts, or other background noise can simulate an office. If your home is too loud, put on headphones with something that will keep you focused.

Take breaks and hydrate. Get up every hour to move, stretch, and make a trip to the kitchen for water. It’s helpful to go outside and get some fresh air. Talk to your family or friends so that you don’t feel completely isolated. You will likely find yourself a lot more productive if you take breaks.

Working from home can be great but it can also come with its own set of distractions. It’s important to keep yourself focused and healthy in order to be stay productive. For more tips on this or other ergonomics topics, contact Adam Johnsen at safety@csdpool.org.

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