Ergonomics and Workspaces

Ergonomics Blog

Work from home (WFH) or remote work, it’s not a new concept. People were working from home long before the pandemic, but once the pandemic started last year, anyone who’s job could be done remotely but currently wasn’t, suddenly became remote. People all over the world who were used to commuting to an office now found their homes as their office. They now had to find and make an office space in their home where there previously wasn’t one.

In last month’s blog, Lessons Learned In This New Hybrid Online World, we mentioned some things that we have learned since having to WFH, but what wasn’t touched on was our workspaces and how we’ve had to learn and adapt to our homes now being our offices. I don’t know about you, but I was not prepared for that, especially not in the long-term it has become.

Unfortunately, not everyone had a spare room for an office and some still don’t, I know I certainly don’t. So if you’re anything like me, in the beginning it was make a “desk” or “workspace” anywhere you could find. Which meant the kitchen table, countertops, coffee table/couch, all became workspaces. On occasion I was even known to lay in my bed and work. While these aren’t ideal places, they made do for the short-term. A lot of these make-shift workspaces were never meant to last more than a few months though. Yet here we are over a year later, many of us still working from home in our makeshift workspaces.

As we mentioned in last month’s blog, remote work is here to stay. Research has shown us that even after the pandemic ends, people still want to WFH, whether it be fully remote or a hybrid of remote and in person. So for those of you with a spare room to convert and dedicate to an office, odds are you probably have done so already. And if not, you should definitely start. For those of us who don’t have that capability, we have the task of taking the space and limitations we have to work with in our homes and creating a more dedicated corner for our workspaces. In either case, we all need to find a way to make our spaces more ergonomic, aka: better designed for efficiency and comfort.

Why is this important you might ask? Because believe it or not, some of our WFH habits are actually hurting us and making us a little less efficient.  According to an article in Healthline, a recent study showed that in 2020, there was an increase in hands, wrists and back injuries. So what do our workspaces have to do with that? Everything! For instance, the majority of us are probably working on a laptop. Odds are you are probably looking down, hunched over that laptop. This can cause neck, back and even shoulder injury because not only are you not supporting your back, but you also aren’t keeping your spine aligned.

According to an article written by Boston University 10 Ergonomics Dos and Don’ts for Those Now Working from Home, not only should you not hunch over your laptop but you should work at an appropriate height and you should also follow the 20/20/20 rule. This rule basically states that for every 20 minutes looking at your screen, you should spend at least 20 seconds looking at something else at least 20 ft away. This not only gives your eye muscles a break but can help reduce the strain we put on our eyes. Anyone else been getting a lot more headaches lately??  Turns out, not giving yourself enough vision breaks could be part of the problem.

We also need to make sure we are getting up and moving around every so often, getting a good stretch. Sitting still for too long can make us stiff, sore, and just wreak havoc in general on our bodies. I personally try to get up and move around at least every 2 hours for about 5-10 minutes. During what I call my lunch hours, (anytime between 11am-1pm), I try to take my dog for a walk. It is not only good for her but for me as well. We both get a little exercise and I get to stretch my legs a bit.

It’s not just the physical aspects that can make our WFH workspaces more efficient either. Our individual preferences matter too. For instance, sometimes I like a little music in the background, it helps me work. To other’s though, this might be a distraction and wouldn’t help them at all. Or maybe you miss the interaction with people? I know I do. Working from home definitely has its perks, but I miss seeing people. It’s one of the things I miss most to be honest. In an article from The Atlantic, they discuss a report that showed that loneliness was the biggest struggle remote workers faced and that a recent survey showed that 70% of employees mention work friendships as an important part of a happy work life.

I get a little jealous of my boyfriend sometimes when he comes home from work and talks about the day he had with his co-workers because I miss having that. I love my dog but I miss having co-workers to interact with and make my day go by faster. So for my mental health, I try to get out of the house when I can. Whether that is working from a coffee shop somedays or just making sure to get out in the evenings after work with friends or my boyfriend. If I don’t, I start to get a little down and lonely, and then it makes it hard for me to focus on my work. However, not everyone is me. There are people who actually rather prefer that limited interaction with people and their work thrives from it.

Everyone is different; maybe you’ve done all the right things and you’re no longer sitting hunched over your laptop, you’re taking vision breaks, stretching and you’ve set up a workspace that is aligned in height, but you still aren’t working that well. You need to find what’s missing for you. Maybe it’s background noise, your dog curled up by you, a comfy blanket, more interaction with people, less interaction, etc. What do you need to make your workspace complete so that you can do your very best work? 

We asked several of your more veteran spark team members a similar question and to share a picture of their workspaces, not surprisingly, everyone’s answer was a little bit different. See their responses below!

What do you feel is essential to ensuring that you can do your best work?

Christa

It is about the light. Natural light. The view. Not distracting, but inspiring. The sounds, I generally have music playing or a podcast I have been listening to depending on if I am writing or editing photos. Comfort is key – pillows, a weighted blanket, a fan, a heater. Workspace options: to sit, stand or even lay down to work. Then there is mobility. Technology that allows me to go outside or a coffeehouse, a conference room or from my bedroom. Photos of my WHY are a must and typically serve as my inspiration and conversation starters! Plants and fresh flowers are also key to giving the space life! My mini fridge is stocked with water and my snack drawer with mints, peanut butter, herbal tea, and protein bars. Stella Bear nearby, she reminds me to take breaks, go for walks and get some snuggles.

John

Organization, scheduled visual and mental breaks, and a clear direction on what the client is hoping to attract with the finished product before starting any project are essential to ensure I deliver the best possible work.

Naomi

Besides the obvious things like wifi and my puppy close by, I think it’s essential to have good snacks and a quiet space to work. When the weather is good, I like to sit out on my huge porch swing. When it’s not so good, I like to lounge on my couch with the fireplace going. Even when I worked in an office, I always had a blanket, slippers, and a space heater close by. I need to be cozy and comfy to do my best work.

Carrie

For me it’s about the comfort, space and removal of distractions. I want to be comfortable when I am working, and I want to make sure I have space for my work. I don’t want to feel like all my work stuff (notebooks, papers, pens etc) is piled on top of each other and I don’t have any room to move. Distractions are also big for me. I need a space where I am not distracted a bunch of times by things around the house. So sometimes I’ll go to a coffee shop just so I avoid any home distractions like chores that need done or as much as I love my dog and having her next to me when working, sometimes she can be a bit of a distraction as well. Coffee shops I found are also nice places to go to help me feel less isolated.

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