Wednesday 15th Jul 2020
It’s well known that sitting at a desk all day, without making the proper health and safety considerations, is a health risk that’s only become fully clear in recent years. That’s why good businesses will ensure that new starters receive all the help they need to ensure their workstation is set up correctly. However, when it comes to remote working (whether for new or existing employees), this important consideration often gets forgotten, and individuals fall into bad habits and use a workstation that’s simply not healthy.
What are the risks?
Strain is perhaps the biggest risk of having a poorly thought-out workstation. This most often applies to the body. Sitting improperly, holding your neck at an awkward angle, or holding your arms in an unsupported position can all contribute to muscle strain that can develop into a long-term issue. While it’s straightforward to remedy most of this at an office desk, it’s not so straightforward at home, and sitting on the sofa while working is a prime example.
There’s also eye-strain to consider, which can come about from poor focus, low light, and excessive screen time.
The very act of sitting for long periods is also known to be particularly unhealthy. The NHS links a lifestyle of extended sitting with a slow metabolism, that can mean the body struggles to regulate things like heart rate and blood sugar levels.
What are the main recommendations?
There are a few very straightforward things that you can do if you’re setting up your own workstation. These also apply if you’re responsible for making sure your own employees or reports are safe. The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publishes a checklist for workstations, which can be found here. This detailed list is a requirement, and is an excellent place to start when setting up a home workstation.
Some of the most important recommendations from the HSE and other experts include the following:
If at all possible, work from a desk. This will make everything much easier. If a dedicated desk isn’t possible, then a dining table or similar is far better than trying to use a laptop on your lap.
The screen and keyboard should ideally be separate, so even if you’re using a laptop, a stand and separate keyboard and mouse is a good idea. This will encourage better posture.
Ensure the screen you’re using is up to the job. If you’re a graphic designer, or you’re working with lots of data, then a small screen might be inappropriate, and contribute to eye strain.
Sit upright. It can’t be understated how unhealthy slouching forwards or backwards can be if done over extended periods. The chair you’re using should support a straight back, and allow you to have relaxed shoulders.
Finally, ensure the room you’re in is comfortable. There should be plentiful light, it needs to be at the right temperature, and fresh air is ideal.
Get up every 30 minutes that you’ve been sitting for. Only one or two minutes of movement is enough to improve things, which is the time it takes you to get a drink or go to the bathroom.