Ergonomics expert and physical therapy professor Ahmed Radwan shares tips for preventing pain and minimizing stress while working from home. Spoiler alert: Stand up!
Does your version of "working from home" include "working from the couch or bed with less-than-ideal posture"? Ahmed Radwan, Ph.D, D.P.T and Physical Therapy Professor at Utica College, knows the importance of proper ergonomics in the workplace for maintaining muscle strength and preventing pain. Radwan is a Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE) and the founder and director of the Center for Ergonomic Analysis and Research (CEAR) at Utica College. He was recently interviewed on WKTV, and he talked to us about why ergonomics matter and how we can stay healthy while working from home.
What is ergonomics? How does this fit into physical therapy?
Ergonomics is a science that focuses on reducing physical and mental stress of workers through appropriate design of workstations and work circumstances. This can reduce the risk of work-related injuries and improve workers’ motivation to perform better.
It is a multidisciplinary field where physical therapists and occupational therapists (with appropriate training and certification) can become ergonomists who have great impact on the design guidelines of work and the welfare of workers.
No matter how good your seat is, you will still harm your body if you sit too long.
With more of us working from home these days, we spend more time leaning over cell phones and laptops to communicate with coworkers and family members. What kinds of problems can this cause?
Any disturbance to the straight posture of the human spine creates excessive stress on muscles/joints and may expedite the degenerative changes within the spine. This comes with pains, spasms, stress and may negatively impact performance.
What can we do to counteract this?
We have to be aware of our posture while working. The process starts with selecting an appropriate chair that has the following elements:
- Cushioned seat
- Appropriate size backrest
- Adjustable height of your seat
- Adjustable cushioned arm rests
Here are some guidelines on how to achieve a good sitting working posture:
- Sit back in your chair, support your back and make a full use of the lumbar support in your chair.
- Adjust the height of the arm rests to allow full support of your forearms.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your neck and head up on top of your shoulders and do not protrude them forward.
- Use a computer monitor that is placed in front of you. The top of the monitor has to be at your eye level and the monitor is no more than an arm's length away from you.
While this may provide you with good sitting posture, ergonomics guidelines still expect workers when they sit for 20 minutes to follow that with 8 minutes of standing and 2 minutes of moving around to minimize risks of sitting. This is simply what we call the 20-8-2 rule.
There is a lot that can be done in standing such as phone calls, reading a document, joining a virtual meeting and many others. Please do not sit for 8 hours. No matter how good your seat is, you will still harm your body if you sit too long.
Where can we get more information?
The website of the Center for Ergonomics Analysis and Research (CEAR) at UC has excellent resources. It has reading material in addition to brief informative ergonomics clips that are truly helpful to workers who spend most of their day sitting, and that is simply all of us nowadays due to the quarantine. My contact information is there as well and I will be glad to answer further questions.
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