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A survey conducted by Ergonomic World found that many home workers are still hunched over laptops and have not taken steps to improve their home office. Working on a laptop, without a second screen, leaning forward and neglecting to take regular breaks can all lead to health issues according to the UK’s Chartered Institute of Ergonomics (CIEHF).

Employers are still responsible for the health and safety of home workers, but working from home makes it more difficult to ensure that employees have a healthy and ergonomic setup. It may be that your employer will be happy to buy extra equipment for laptop workers who need a second screen or external keyboard to ensure their setup is not damaging their health.

Ergonomics refers to the design of work equipment to make it comfortable and more efficient. Guidelines such as those of the Health & Safety Executive and the Chartered Institute for Ergonomics stress the importance of having a screen at eye level, a chair with back support and that allows for an upright sitting position, as well as taking regular breaks. This is commonplace in offices where health and safety standards are easily applied to everyone, but harder to enforce with employees working from home.

Full survey results:

The survey of home workers conducted during November 2020 shows that many workers are laptop-only and don’t use a second screen. Furthermore they don’t take regular breaks and most of them report leaning forwards in their chair which suggests they are slouching forwards rather than using a chair with back support.

76% of home workers use a laptop.

45% of these laptop users surveyed said they use a second screen while 12% use a laptop stand.

Overall 43% of respondents said that their monitor was not at eye level so they are looking straight ahead at the screen.

63% of respondents do not get up from their desks regularly. According to CIEHF it is important to get up from your desk 2-3 times every hour for 30-60 seconds.

66% of respondents sit leaning forward rather than with their back on the chair. CIEHF recommends sitting back against the chair and using a back rest support if your chair does not provide this support, but it seems likely that most home workers do not have an ergonomic office chair like they might do at work.

There are a number of DIY approaches to making your home office environment more ergonomic. For example by using a towel tied to a chair as lumbar support or creating a DIY wrist rest to prevent hand, wrist and shoulder pain from leaning on the computer mouse.

Products are also available to help improve the ergonomics of a home office. A keyboard and a stack of books is an inexpensive way to raise the screen to eye level and prevent slouching. A second screen that offers reduced eye strain technology is even better. A proper office chair, suitable desk, ergonomic mouse, and a range of other products can also help.