Employers are increasingly asking staff to work from home in response to Public Heath advice regarding the COVID-19 (coronavirus).
The HSE has just announced that employees do not have to provide DSE risk assessments for home workers due to the current pandemic.
This may well leave employers thinking that they are off the hook and can let their staff just get on with it, but it is important to note that employers are still responsible for an employee’s health, safety and welfare so far as is reasonably practicable. Companies will have to ask themselves whether they are doing all they can to look after their work force. Many employees will be used to working from a laptop for short periods at home but most are not setup to work comfortably or safely for full working days.
Ergonomics at Home
It is preferable to always sit at a desk or a table when using your laptop rather than on the sofa. Seated height will need to be adjusted based on the table or desk height. Note that dining tables are generally higher than standard desktops.
Select a chair that has a high backrest to support your back. Depending on the height of your table or desk, you might need to use pillows or cushions to raise your seated height and/or to support your lower back.
If your feet do not comfortably reach the floor use books or other sturdy items as a footrest.
With the keyboard and mouse on the edge of the table or desk, your upper back and shoulders should remain down/relaxed, elbows bent to 90 degree angles and forearms parallel to the floor/desktop. Additionally, feet must be supported with thighs parallel to the floor or with knees slightly lower than the hips.
Standing set-up using a countertop, high book shelf etc.
Look for a countertop that can safely accommodate your laptop, keyboard and mouse and additional household items as needed. Improvise to ensure your upper back and shoulders remain down/relaxed and forearms parallel with the floor.
It is better to have a work surface that is slightly lower than elbows (when standing relaxed). Inserting a cutting board, books, or similar items under the keyboard and mouse could fine tune the keying/mousing height or standing height can be lowered a little by widening the distance between your feet.
The laptop can be raised on a sturdy food container or books. Adjust as needed to achieve the optimal screen height and distance.
Ideally aim to stand for 25% of your working day. Try to stand for 15 minutes every 1-2 hours and gradually build up the time that you stand, however don’t stand for more than an hour at a time as your lower back may feel tired.
When standing alternate your weight between your legs frequently. Don’t ‘stand still’. You may find it more comfortable to stand when you are on video conference or telephone calls.
Laptop Screen Height & Distance
The laptop screen height should allow a neutral neck position with the chin not tilted up or down.
In addition to the laptop stand, you can achieve the recommended height (eye level falls within the upper 1/3 of the screen) by raising the screen further using books, a box or a sturdy food container.
It is recommended to have less than an arm’s length between your eyes and the screen since the screen and displayed content are smaller compared to office monitors.
Note: adjust your location or set-up as necessary to minimize glare from windows or other sources