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Guest Author Joy Boese: Ergonomics Principles for Working From Home

girl stretching at desk

As entrepreneurs, we’re facing unprecedented uncertainty and challenges. The good news? We don’t have to go it alone. Now more than ever, togetherness and collaboration are essential. Amber Gray, Founder and CEO of Trusty Oak, is collaborating with Stephanie Loayza, Founder of Exec Wranglers for The Better Together Series: Virtual Coffee Chats for Entrepreneurs.

Our second guest, Joy K. Boese, is the President of E3 Consulting Corporation, a leading Office Ergonomic & Design Consulting Firm, established in 1996. Joy’s background is in human factors design and she designs work environments around people in a variety of different settings. Her company is focused on office, industrial, and home office environments. 

Joy shared some ergonomics and health and wellness principles you can apply while working from home. We had a number of entrepreneurs attend the coffee chat and they were able to share their stories, hear Joy present, and ask questions. Read on, computer athletes, to learn more about Joy’s best practices and lessons learned for creating the perfect workspace while working remotely.

How to Increase Performance While Working From Home (WFH) 

First, I like to collaborate with clients by reviewing their posture. I ask clients to send photos of their work environment so I can look for ways to make improvements in their space. 

We are all workplace athletes and we want people to start the day with stretching and breathing exercises. These simple techniques can help improve your overall performance. I look at ergonomics as more of a holistic approach, not solely on having the right equipment. 

Ergonomics is a Science

Ergonomics is the study that explores the right relationships between people, their equipment, and the tasks they perform. It is trying to find the perfect balance and designing a work environment catered to you. 

Ergonomics is broken down into 4 Modules. It is much more than just the workstation and equipment.

1. Psychosocial Factors

These are things we cannot control. For example, we cannot control our stress levels from COVID-19, personal factors, and medical conditions.

2. Task and Behavior

It takes 21 days to form a habit (good or bad). Right now, we are in week seven of the pandemic. How are your habits? Are you forming healthy habits right now? We have all formed new habits and hopefully, some are good, but some we might need improvements on. Here are a few ideas for healthy habits to build during an unusual time. 

  • Take a micro-break! Every 30 minutes take a break and a 30-second pause. Every hour to two hours, get up for 5-10 minutes to move and walk around. This improves circulation in your body.
  • Take a minute to stretch. There are some stretches you can incorporate during your 5-10 minute break. These are great habits to allow the body to recover and change your posture. Static posture causes long term effects and wear and tear of the body over time. 
  • Identify habits and behaviors. In ergonomics, we want you to think about your posture. Take a micro break and observe your posture and work environment. Are you comfortable? 
    Wrist and Forearm Stretches and Exercises

3. Environment

Many things impact your work environment. For instance, air quality, lighting, and noise have an effect on how you feel throughout the day. Think of these factors: 

  • Temperature: How is the temperature in your home office? Manage the temperature or let in some fresh air. 
  • Lighting: Lighting is key. Believe it or not, in your 40s, you need three times as much light than in your 20s. You never want to have a light source directly behind or above you causing glare on the monitor screen. The better solution is to have light coming parallel to the sides of your work space. If you are getting too much light, cover up the light source with blinds or a blanket.
  • Sound: Wear a headset or noise-canceling headphones, and adjust the volume to protect your ears. 

4. Workstation and Equipment

How are you arranging your equipment? Are you a touch typist, or hunt and pecker? There are certain devices for certain people depending on their techniques. There are different types of keyboards and different size monitors depending on the type of work you perform. You want to design a work environment where things you primarily use are 12-18 inches of you.

Breathing Exercises to Enhance Performance 

Incorporating breathing and mindful techniques is a great way to manage stress and regenerate the body. Here are some breathing exercises to give a try. 

  • 4-7-8 Breath: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds (my personal favorite)
  • SEAL Box Breathing: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold lungs empty for 4 seconds
  • Progressive Metronomic Breathing: Synchronize breathing to an external metronome (learn how to do it here)

Is Your Work-From-Home Set Up Causing Cumulative Trauma Disorders?

In ergonomics, we refer to Cumulative Trauma Disorders. These disorders are characterized by excessive wear and tear on tendons, muscles, and sensitive nerve tissue caused by continuous use over an extended period of time. These injuries happen over a period of time. 

Early Warning Signs of Cumulative Trauma

  • Fatigue
  • Aching or Burning
  • Dropping Things
  • Numbness or Tingling
  • Subtle Decrease in Activities 
  • Sleep disturbed

What are the Contributing Risk Factors in the Workplace? 

  • Repetitive Motions: Doing the same movement continuously 
  • Awkward Postures: Working in a manner that places demands on the body
  • Excessive Force: Excessive pressure on muscles and joints
  • Pressure Points: Body pressing against hard surfaces

With all of this in mind, how does one select the right chair to best support you? Choose a chair that has a stable seat pan, back support and is stable. Raise the chair to the right height. Use props such as a pillow to adjust the height as needed.

Ergonomic Tips for the Correct Work Environment

  • Start at a table with a stable desk surface to begin your day and alternate work environments throughout the day. 
  • Raise the chair so your knees are slightly lower than your hips and your feet are touching the floor. Can’t raise the chair? Use a pillow or binder to add height. 
  • Slide the seat pan of your chair so you have at least three or four inches behind the back of your knees.
  • Your forearm should be open at least 90-100 degrees to your upper arm.
  • Your wrists should not be angled up or down, but in a neutral posture.
  • Set the height of the work surface so that you can work without straining or bending.
  • The top of your computer screen should be at least 1” (2.45 cm) below eye level and the monitor distance should be within arms reach. 
How to Select the Right Work From Home Set Up?

The Benefits of Standing

The goal is to stand at least a minimum of 5-15 minutes per hour or every two hours and avoid standing for long durations of time. Intermittent standing is where you see the benefits. Make accommodations and adjust your workstation to accommodate your standing posture. It is good to alternate postures because it forces you out of the static posture. Always listen to your body and do not stay or force yourself in a posture if you are uncomfortable. 

Tip: Take photos of your posture and see what ways you can improve your posture. 

While working from home, make sure you have a regular routine and create positive habits. 

  • Take frequent breaks
  • Rotate work environments
  • Crack open a window or door  
  • Stay connected with family and friends

If you’re looking to improve your office space E3 provides virtual evaluations! Remember, always listen to your body. 


Joy Reese

Joy K. Boese is the President of E3 Consulting Corporation, a leading edge Office Ergonomic & Design Consulting Firm, established in May of 1996. With over 20 years of experience, Joy’s vision was to create a company that set the highest service standard available in the field of Ergonomics. Ms. Boese has been involved in developing, maintaining, and implementing Office Ergonomic Programs for clients such as Toyota Motor Sales, Bank of America, Northrop Grumman, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Fox, Dreamworks, Paramount Pictures, Irwin Mortgage Corporation, Kroger Foods, Rand Corporation, Google and Polycom. Joy’s passion is to provide cost-effective and innovative solutions guaranteed to increase employee productivity, health wellness, and comfort, while dramatically improving a company’s bottom line.

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