Preparing for a Hybrid Future: Tips for a Top Of the Line, Ergonomic Home Office

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( — May 24, 2021) — Remote work has had a four-quarter, almost full-immersion trial period. Between the months of May and October of 2020, as the virus reached its apex, roughly half of all paid hours were provided from home. While many things remain uncertain—the speed of the vaccine rollout, the corporate approach to physical office space—twelve months’ worth of test results is enough to make educated guesses regarding the future of post-pandemic work.

A December study conducted by the University of Chicago surveyed 15,000 Americans about whether, and why, working from home might become a common practice after the threat of viral transmission lifts. The survey showed that workers are expecting 22% of their full workdays will take place at home after the pandemic ends. 

The study had two other important findings. First, high-income workers seemed to enjoy the flexibility and comforts of working from their home offices—respondents reported a willingness to sacrifice an average of 7.6% of their annual salary in exchange for the opportunity to work from anywhere. Second, there’s reason to believe that a significant number of workers might be more productive from home and that some companies might have found unexpected benefits in being out of office. The study shows that post-pandemic work-from-home accommodations could have the potential to boost productivity up to 2.4%. 

A McKinsey report went deeper, studying 2,000 tasks across 800 jobs in 9 different countries. To summarize their findings: hybrid models of remote work will last. Most workers can expect some mix of in-office and at-home work, and many employers seem to be willing to offer their teams some choice in the matter. Regardless of how the individual professional feels about at-home operations, working from home will be one shift that persists in the post-COVID workforce. For anyone that was resisting those necessary investments into their home office, let this be a sign to give in.

At-Home Ergonomics: Beginning with the Basics

Almost every professional has brought their best suit to a tailor. They understand the importance of finding the right fit, and they don’t expect it to come off the rack in perfect proportions. That suit might be worn once a week, at most. But office workers spend about 75% of their waking hours sitting down, and now, they’re sitting down at home. 

A proper ergonomic setup begins with customizing the desk, chair, and monitor height to the worker’s proportions. All this can happen quicker than taking a trip to the tailor. Websites like Ergotron have interactive workspace planners, allowing professionals to input their height and watch their measurements shift. 

Most desk and chair heights are designed with people who are 5’8”-5’10” in mind. But for someone who’s 6’0”, for example, their monitor height and keyboard height should be about 2 inches taller, while their seat height can remain roughly the same. A computer monitor should always be positioned roughly 20”-30” away from the worker’s shoulders, tilted upward at roughly 15°, and positioned at a height that promotes a natural gaze. 

Relieving Chronic Aches and Pains

Another workplace study tracked 30,000 workers over the course of two weeks and found that the average amount of productive time lost to pain was an incredible 4.6 hours, every week. The problem compounds, as poor posture habits make these show-stopping aches and pains multiply, and workers find themselves less able to work out, sleep comfortably, or relax without pain. 

When it comes to musculoskeletal aches, a few changes can make a world of difference. For working professionals, turning a little bit of attention toward the basic placement of their hands and their feet can reinvent their entire working posture. An ergonomic vertical mouse, for example, is a small change that goes a long way. With the primary buttons located on the side, users assume a handshake position while they navigate their screens. This reduces the kind of constant wrist-twisting that’s been associated with carpal tunnel. Ergonomic Trends recently named the Logitech MX ERGO Advanced mouse as the best choice in its category. Along with it, they named the Logitech Ergo K860 Wireless Ergonomic Keyboard as the market leader, allowing professionals to protect their wrists and correct their forearm positioning with a split keyboard that rises in the center. 

And too often overlooked, a small investment into a sturdy, adjustable footrest can correct a professional’s posture from the ground up. Wirecutter recently named the ErgoFoam Adjustable Under Desk Foot Rest the best of its kind.

Proper foot positioning allows professionals to offset their seated load, reduce body fatigue, and promote better circulation throughout the day. Professionals that make this change notice a quick reduction in leg, knee, and back pain. For those who prefer to stand while they work, the Butterfly Ergonomic Standing-Desk Mat was mentioned by New York Magazine as a consumer favorite. 

With twelve full months of at-home work, professionals might think twice before using the word ‘temporary’ to describe their at-home set up. Remote work of some kind is expected to be a permanent part of post-COVID work practices, as most employers strategize a hybrid workflow. Professionals are more productive, safer, and generally more satisfied when they’re free from aches and pains; with the above changes, at-home workers can begin to feel their best, day by day.