Monday, 13 April 2020

Setting-up for homeworking


By Nigel Oseland & Iain Smith

Many of us now have no choice but to work from home, but how many of us are properly set-up for it? As mentioned in our first blog, The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) requires that employers provide “a working environment for employees that is … safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work”. This applies to all working environments including the home and covers ventilation, temperature, lighting and space plus the chair, desk and computer. 

A good starting point to check you have the appropriate set-up is the HSE’s self-assessment checklist for Display Screen Equipment Workstations. Their checklist covers:
  • Keyboards – For example, do you have a comfortable keying position?
  • Mice – For example, is the device positioned close to you?
  • Display screens – For example, is the screen free from glare and reflections and does the screen swivel and tilt … to a comfortable position?
  • Software – For example, is the software suitable for the tasks you are conducting?
  • Furniture – For example, is the work surface large enough, is the chair suitable and are your forearms horizontal and eyes at roughly the same height as the top of the screen?
  • Environments – For example, are the lighting, temperature, air quality and noise at comfortable levels?
If you find the above are not being met, consult your manager, HR department or H&S representative for a long-term solution. However, there are other temporary remedial measures that you can take. 

Screen height – Of all the above requirements, the height of the computer screen is most critical as continuous neglect can eventually lead to chronic musculoskeletal problems. Ideally you will require a separate monitor that can be plugged into your PC or laptop. These can be expensive but shop around on-line for a smaller screen or older model – a smaller separate monitor is better than looking down at your laptop screen. If the monitor is too small, then use stacked books etc to raise the height. Avoid placing a laptop on books etc as this will affect the height of your elbows, see below. A slightly better solution is a laptop cradle which angles the keyboard and raises the screen. Even better are the cradles that come with a separate keyboard, but they are less common and more expensive – a cradle and separate keyboard works well


Chair & desk – The table/desk height is also important with arms bent at approximately 90° when typing. Relatively inexpensive but ergonomically reliable “task chairs” can be purchased on-line and delivered to your home. If you do not have this option, find a chair that matches the height of your table and use cushions or chocks to adjust the height. 

Environment – One advantage of working from home is that you may have more individual control over lighting, temperature, air quality and noise. Ideally you will have good daylight and nice views of a garden, park or planting (all good for creativity and reenergising). As mentioned, in our previous blog, try to minimise distractions from other household members. Where practical, ask them to postpone noisier activities, or at least reduce the level, such as television, washing machine, play. You may find that background music or headphones can mask distracting noises. When setting up also look-out for trailing cables and other trip hazards.

We hope you have found these short-cuts handy, do contact us for more advice.


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