Work from home FAQ’s

Which room is best for my home office?

There are a few things to consider when choosing the location of your home office.  From an ergonomic perspective, you will need a work surface big enough for all of your work, at a height that is precisely resting elbow height in either sitting or standing (or ideally both).  To optimise concentration and minimise distraction, you will need to be in an area away from audio-visual distractions (anything from your TV to your pets to your children). 

For most people, it’s important to keep work entirely separate from wherever it is that you sleep so that you’re able to rest with a minimum of work stress.  If you’re engaging in online meetings, you’ll need to ensure that your on-screen background is something you’re comfortable sharing with your colleagues.  In a perfect world, a separate study or spare bedroom is most likely to satisfy these criteria, so that you can draw a clear ‘border’ between the place where you work, and the place where you don’t work. 

The kitchen table is where many people end up, and it’s rarely the best option, as it’s often not the right height, and it usually forms the focal point of family life, so it’s often rife with distractions.  If you don’t have the luxury of a spare room that you can dedicate to your home office, a spare corner of a lounge room or family room is most likely your best option, with the clear condition that you shut down your computer as soon as your working day is over so that you can use your lounge or family room the way it was originally intended: for lounging.

Is it normal to feel muscle tightness working from home?

Most people working at a computer for a full working day will notice some mild muscle tightness, most commonly in their neck, shoulder and upper back.  We always work with clients to try to eliminate any of these signs, but a very mild, occasional muscle tightness which settles as soon as you get away from your computer falls into the “not ideal, but not disastrous” category.

If your tightness/soreness/pain is worsening from one day to the next, impacting your quality-of-life, and especially if it’s noticeably worse when you’re working from home, it’s a good sign that something is wrong, and warrants your attention and some corrective action.

Our first recommendations would be to take regular breaks away from your screen(s) every 40-45 minutes, check your ergonomics (see our fact sheets), schedule regular relaxation/meditation/mindfulness sessions during each day (see our fact sheets), make sure you’re drinking an appropriate amount of water (see our fact sheets), and try some regular stretches throughout each day (see our fact sheets).

Where should I position my laptop?

Honestly, there’s no way to work ergonomically on a stand-alone laptop.  If the keyboard and touchpad are at the ideal height, the screen is way too low.  The keyboard and touchpad are usually smaller and further away than a standard keyboard/mouse set-up, which tends to round your shoulders and slump your upper back.

In a perfect world, if you’re spending periods at your computer of more than 10-15 minutes, use your laptop as a CPU, and attach it into a larger flatscreen (which you can then position at an appropriate height), with a separate keyboard and mouse (which you can then set up at an ideal height and distance).

If this stretches your budget too far, you can place your laptop on a basic box or stand (make sure it’s stable) to bring your laptop screen to an appropriate height, and then use the external keyboard and mouse (if you don’t already have a separate keyboard and mouse, you can pick up a keyboard/mouse combination for as little as $25 at your local office supplies store).

What’s the most common cause of neck pain in home offices?

There are plenty of ‘creative’ home office set-ups that result in neck pain.  Probably the two most common causes are “screen too low” and asymmetry.  Your screen height should encourage an upright posture (whether you’re sitting or standing), with a neutral head/neck posture (so that you’re not needing to tip your head forwards or backwards to view your work).  If you’re not wearing eyeglasses, this usually means having the top-third of your screen at roughly eye height.

If you’re wearing eyeglasses, screen height depends on your visual gaze through your lenses as you work, which often needs the screen to drop a little lower.  Asymmetry normally occurs because you are turning your head to one side to look at your screen.  If you’re using one screen, make sure it’s 100% straight in front of you.

If you’re using multiple screens, try to spend parts of the day focussed on one screen which is centrally-positioned, to reduce the amount you’re sustaining and twisted posture.

Do you provide training around home office use?

Yes!  Obviously any training for home-office work is most easily done remotely.  We conduct Zoom-based seminars for businesses in a variety of industries, covering ergonomics and physical health, dietetics and psychology.  You can request more information here.

I’ve been putting on weight ever since I’ve been working from home; what’s the best diet for the home office?

Diet is obviously a very individual thing, and what works for one person might not work for another.  But it’s possible to say that a large subset of people tend to eat more frequently when they’re at home, snacking throughout the day for any number of reasons (distraction, boredom, anxiety, or just ‘because it’s there’). 

The easiest place to start is to identify your eating habits at home (by keeping a written journal of everything you eat during work hours for the next week).  Once you’ve identified those things that you’re eating habitually at home that you might want to eliminate (because you suspect that they’re unhealthy), try to make those foods harder to access.  Either stop buying them, or if they have to be in the house, put them on a shelf which requires a step to access them. 

Try to keep food away from your work area as a rule, so that you’re more conscious of your eating habits throughout the day.