Is Your Home Office Making You Sick?

Is Your Home Office Making You Sick?

Examine the ergonomics of your office equipment to improve your health.

Ergonomics is the science of equipment design to maximize productivity and lessen the fatigue and discomfort associated with sitting, typing, and staring at a computer screen all day — something medical coders and billers are all too familiar with.

Companies usually see to their employees’ needs in this regard while they are onsite because it benefits them as much as it does their employees. A proper and customized workspace can safeguard your health and increase your productivity. This personal attention can also improve employee morale.

With so many of us working from home now, however, we may not be paying attention to our own office environment the way our employers did when we were all under one roof. Overlooking your office ergonomics can leave you with health issues such as neck strain, lower back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Try these ergonomic practices in your workspace at home or in the office, and you will begin to enjoy the rewards of working in a healthy environment immediately.

Consider Keyboard Placement and Style

To prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes hand and arm pain and numbness, ensure your wrists are in the neutral position, with both hands and wrists in line with your forearms.

The keyboard should be set in a nearly level position and centralized, with the “B” key in line with your belly button. There should be at least a hand’s width of space between the keyboard and the edge of the desk to rest your hands.

There are many keyboards on the market that claim to be ergonomic. The keypads are angled to ensure you aren’t wrenching your wrists in an unhealthy position. It’s best to try out several to see which feels best to you.

Align Your Body With the Monitor

The placement of your monitor is key in preventing eye strain and neck pain. Proper placement factors in three measures:

Placement: Place your computer monitor directly in front of you, so your body and neck aren’t twisted when looking at the screen.

Distance: The monitor should be at a comfortable viewing distance. It can strain your eyes to be too close to the screen.

Height: To prevent neck pain and poor posture, place the monitor at a comfortable viewing height that doesn’t make you tilt your head up or bend your neck down to see the screen. You should be able to see all parts of the screen just by moving your eyes.

Don’t overlook lighting. Glare on your monitor from a window or lights can cause eye strain and headaches. Consider using low light and position your desk so east- and west-facing windows aren’t directly behind your chair. You may also want to try inexpensive glasses you can buy to block the blue light your different electronic devices emit.

Find a Chair to Support You

To prevent lower back pain, sit so your back touches the chair’s back and make sure the chair supports your spinal curve. If your chair doesn’t have lumbar support, try adding a pillow in the small of your back.

As with your monitor, the height of your chair is very important. It should be adjusted so your feet are flat on the floor or on a footrest and your hands rest comfortably on the keyboard and desk. In this position, your legs and arms should be at approximately 90-degree angles. Leaving the feet to dangle can cause pinched nerves behind the knees, but sitting too low can cause shoulder strain and poor circulation in your hands.

Place Items Within Arm’s Reach

Place items you use most often within reach. This will reduce how often you strain to grab far-away items. If you are using your code books daily, consider putting them on a stand near your monitor. With your books at eye level, you do not have to bend your neck down to read the books. Alternatively, place certain items far enough away that you have to get up to get them. Frequent breaks from sitting will get the blood flowing and keep you from getting stiff.

Finally, if you are on the phone frequently, use a headset instead of holding the phone between your ear and shoulder. (Yes, people still do this with cell phones!) This will help prevent neck and shoulder aches.


UI Ergonomics

Bridget Toomey

About Has 8 Posts

Bridget Toomey, MS, CPC, CPB, CPPM, AAPC Fellow, RYT-200, is the assistant director of Clinical Operations in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Iowa Health Care. She is a certified Kundalini yoga teacher and serves as the wellness ambassador for the department of OB-GYN. Toomey received her Master of Science in Health Care Management from Johns Hopkins University. She is the vice president of the Iowa City, Iowa, local chapter.

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