Ergonomically smartworking in 3 points

Whether it is "smart" or "remote", the work done outside an institutional workplace is not something that arose in the last year, but only a practice brought to the attention of the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are platoons of workers, professionals or employees, who have always worked from home or from wherever they happen to be: at the cafeteria, on the subway, in a parking lot leaning against the car trunk, on the beach and so on.

Of course, some professions require constant availability, and in these circumstances it is certainly difficult to plan ahead, but in most cases I suggest you follow these advice based on my experience... if you feel that I have missed something that is important to you, please let me know in the comments!

Warning: if you need advice in the regulatory context, always refer to your HSE officers.

Being comfortable and with a correct posture is essential for general physical well-being and also for keeping healthy your back, wrists, neck and eyes: you definitely need a workplace dedicated to your smartworking, which we can summarize in three fundamental points:

  1. a comfortable and spacious work surface
  2. an ergonomic seat
  3. a large computer display

The desktop surface must be large to allow you to correctly position the display, the keyboard and any other material necessary for your tasks (a notepad, a binder, printouts or technical drawings). Therefore the size of the plan must also be evaluated in relation to the type of work you do from home. With a predominantly paperless activity you can decide to give up a worktop that is too large and favor a larger display, but my advice is never to go below 100 cm wide by 60 cm deep.

An ergonomic seat must have three basic characteristics: adjustable seat height, adjustable backrest angle and adjustable armrest height. All these features are intended to allow you to assume a correct posture, like the one shown in the following image:

Berkeley Lab / Public domain

Personally, I indulged myself to purchase a gaming chair with some extra features and adjustments, since in the end I can use it not only for work, but also for home relaxation, to read a book or to watch TV.
A computer display must be large enough not to feel the need to bring your eyes closer to see the contents: a good compromise between dimensions, prices and visibility is represented by 24'' monitors. Personally, however, I absolutely recommend a size of 27'', especially if your work is mainly paperless, as you can afford to place applications and documents on the screen without sacrificing readability, and your eyes will thank you!

The equipment needs then to be completed by some accessories that in my experience are not really fundamental, but which can still improve comfort, especially if you are subject to specific ailments:

  • an ergonomic vertical mouse or trackball, to relieve stress on the wrists
  • a pair of glasses with UV filter, to relieve stress on the eyes by cutting the violet / ultraviolet frequencies of your screen
  • a footrest, to relieve stress on the ankles and lower joints
  • a palm rest, to relieve stress on the wrists and forearms.

Some companies have begun to provide screens, chairs and other accessories to their employees for their remote working, and this is a commendable and responsible initiative... but if you do not have this opportunity, the expense to acquire a workstation decent, fortunately, is not excessive: for an ergonomic chair and a 24 '' full-HD display you can get by with less than 250 euros.

If I had to indicate what has really changed my work-from-home experience for the better, it is undoubtedly the sitting, and in particular the availability of a lumbar support on which to unload the back and a headrest to relax the neck from time to time.

But let's not forget one important thing: it is useless to have everything you need if you neglect to discipline your posture and your behavior. You don't have to give up on breaks or on stretching exercises, nor should you skimp on good lighting.

Happy remote-working everyone!

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