For many of you the dining room or kitchen table, the kitchen island, the sofa or even your bedroom have become last-minute offices. While these impromptu office setups may have sufficed for a short period, poor ergonomics over a prolonged time will cause musculoskeletal strain and eventually pain.
If the height of the table you are working at is too high it will force you to hunch your shoulders and raise your arms in the air in order to reach your keyboard. If the surface is too low it will force your head forward and down. Both positions cause tension and will lead to muscle tightness, decreased spinal mobility and possibly nerve irritation. If you can't change the elevation of your work station you may be able to elevate or lower your chair. It should be at a level where can type with your shoulders relaxed, upper arms loose, elbows close to your body and bent slightly greater than 90 degrees allowing your wrists to rest in a neutral position.
If elevating yourself to an appropriate height requires the use of a cushion or pillow and leaves your feet dangling off the ground you will need to place a book, a box or a foot rest to keep your feet on a flat surface. The goal is to have the knees bent at 90 degrees with the feet flat to slightly flexed and to a small degree in front of your knees. Another option is to use an ironing board which will allow you to adjust the height of the surface for the chair you use so that your laptop will be at the proper elbow height.
Make sure your computer monitor is at eye level. This may require you to again use books or a box to raise it up.
The sofa or couch ranks low on our ideal places to work from. If you must, sit length wise and put your feet outstretched on it with the armrest providing a reasonable back support.
If you are able to invest in better equipment we would suggest starting with an adjustable chair with good lumbar support or if possible have your office chair from work couriered to your home. Purchasing an external mouse and keyboard would allow you to raise your laptop screen up to eye level on a stack of books.
You should be taking frequent breaks to move and stretch. The more awkward your workstation is the more frequently you should be changing positions.
If you are fortunate enough to have a home office, we have included a diagram for a proper ergonomic set up.
IS YOUR MAKESHIFT OFFICE CAUSING YOU PAIN?