Home working – your questions answered!

Ergonomics

By now, many, if not all of your employees are likely to be working from home to some degree in order to support the Government’s advice to combat the spread of Coronavirus. We’ve collated the most commonly asked questions we’ve received to help you and your employees stay well when working at home.

Do I need to carry out DSE assessments for staff temporarily working at home?

If you have people working at home temporarily because of Coronavirus, you do not need to do Display Screen Equipment (DSE) workstation assessments; this has been confirmed by the Health and Safety Executive.

However, you should provide staff with advice to minimise the DSE-related risks to their health when working at home, including:

  • Breaking up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) or changes in activity.
  • Avoiding awkward, static postures by regularly changing position.
  • Getting up and moving or doing stretching exercises.
  • Avoiding eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking from time to time.
Our practical home workstation set-up guide may help them.

How can I best set-up my home computer workstation?

Here are some simple steps you can take to help optimise your posture and improve your comfort when working at home:

  • Work at a desk or table with adequate knee/foot clearance so that you can sit/stand close to your laptop.
  • Use a separate keyboard and mouse with your laptop.
  • Position the keyboard and mouse directly in front of you within easy reach.
  • Position your laptop so that the top of the screen is level with your eye height (only do this if you have a separate keyboard and mouse).
  • If you don’t have a laptop riser, use a box file or some books to raise your laptop. Or plug in a separate monitor if you have one.
  • If sitting, use an adjustable chair if you have one. If not, use a hand towel for extra lower back support. If your chair is too low, sit on a cushion to raise your seat height.
  • Maintain a good posture; if sitting, try to ensure that the small of your back is supported, your shoulders are relaxed (not slumped, not elevated), and that there is no unwelcome pressure on the back of your knees. If standing (e.g. at your kitchen worktop), keep your legs, torso, neck and head approximately in line and vertical – don’t slouch, lean or twist to the side.
  • Don’t sit or stand for too long – change your posture every few minutes and take regular micro-breaks away from your laptop.

Download our practical home workstation set-up guide.

I don’t have a laptop stand, separate keyboard or mouse at home, what should I do?

If you do not have access to a laptop riser or separate screen or keyboard:

  • Find the most suitable space to work at which has a level surface; ideally a desk or table with adequate knee/foot clearance so that you can sit/stand close to your device.
  • Avoid working with your laptop directly on your lap. If you do not have a desk or level suDrawing of a lady working at a tabel on a laptop; she ha a cushion to support her lower back. rface, use a lap-desk, cushion or lever arch file etc. to raise your laptop.
  • Achieve as comfortable a position as possible that minimises stress to the neck, back and upper limbs.
  • If sitting, try to ensure that the small of your back is supported (you could use a rolled-up towel or cushion), your shoulders are relaxed (not slumped, not elevated), and that there is no uncomfortable pressure on the back of your knees. If standing, keep your legs, torso, neck and head approximately in line and vertical.
  • Place the device towards the middle of the desk or worksurface so that you can rest on the desk and keep your wrists relaxed.
  • Sit/stand directly in front of your device.

How often should I change my posture when using the computer?

You should break up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) or changes in activity.

Here are our top tips for building physical activity into your working day:

Carbonated water being poured in to a glass.

  • Plan your day to break up long spells of working on your computer, e.g. schedule telephone calls at regular intervals, rather than back-to-back.
  • Stand while talking on the telephone and do a few stretches.
  • Drink plenty of water. Sipping water throughout the day will mean more trips to the bathroom!
  • Exercise during your breaks, e.g. go for a walk, run or cycle at lunchtime. Please do remember the Government’s requirements for social distancing e.g. two metres from others.
  • Organise the layout of your workspace in such a way that you have to stand up to reach often-used files, your phone, printer etc., rather than having everything within easy reach.

How can I maintain my physical and mental wellbeing?

Potentially long periods of working from home means your physical and mental wellbeing is important as ever. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Maintain boundaries between work and personal life. Where you can, start and stop work at fixed times and keep to a routine (unless of course, something genuinely urgent comes up).
  • Keep in contact with colleagues, family and friends using the telephone, instant messaging (e.g. Teams and Slack), video conferencing tools (such as Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype, Microsoft Teams etc) and social media channels.
  • Try to get outside in your lunch break or before or after work while following guidance requiring social distancing e.g. two metres from others. Otherwise, make use of your balcony, garden or even just open your windows for some fresh air and a slight change of scenery.
  • Do some gentle exercise or stretches. You can download our exercise guide here.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals and drink plenty of water.
  • Use headspace or mindfulness apps, white noise machines, or audiobooks to help you sleep or take your mind off things. Or take up a new hobby – learn to sew, do basic DIY or play the guitar.

I have staff with specialised DSE equipment needs, what should I do?

As an employer, you should try to meet those needs where possible.

For some equipment (e.g. keyboards, mouse, laptop riser) this could mean allowing workers to take this equipment home or allowing them to buy the equipment for use at home and reimbursing them.

For larger items (e.g. ergonomic chairs, height-adjustable desks) you should encourage workers to try other ways of creating a comfortable working environment (e.g. using supporting cushions, standing to work at their kitchen worktop etc.).

I need more help…

We have a long-standing history of conducting workstation assessments by telephone or video links. We can provide an immediate, cost-effective service to ensure employees adopt ergonomic postures and provide tailored recommendations to those with complex musculoskeletal needs.

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