Get help correcting your at-home ergonomics

With many King County employees working remotely through the pandemic, and potentially beyond, you may find yourself missing your perfectly adjusted ergonomic workstation in the office.

King County has certified ergonomists in the Department of Human Resources (DHR) that can provide assessments for your at-home workstation. They can’t come to your home, but a virtual assessment can help pinpoint issues and save you pain down the road.

“It’s not too late; even if it’s been several months since you started working from home, you should assess any new workstation,” Rob Stafford, Safety & Health Professional with DHR, said.  

Requests for ergonomic assessments dwindled in the first months of the pandemic but have surged since the Executive’s extension of mandatory telecommuting for non-essential personnel through July 5, 2021. A large number of those requests have been to assess at-home workstations. 

“People thought this would be temporary and were working from their couch or dining room table, but the reality is that telework might become permanent or more frequent for some employees,” Stafford said.

The first step is complete the online self-assessment, unless you have a medical restriction or your doctor has requested an ergonomic assessment or accommodation. This do-it-yourself evaluation is a simple checklist with tips on how to effectively set up a pain-free workstation from home.

If you still have questions that the checklist didn’t answer, persisting pain, or if you have specific questions regarding your workstation, you can request a virtual ergonomic evaluation (requires SharePoint login). Any King County employee can request an ergonomic assessment; no supervisor approval is needed. Despite the high demand, the team at DHR can typically conduct a virtual ergonomic assessment within 2-3 weeks of your request.

So what does a virtual assessment look like? “I usually start by asking the employee to email or text me a photo of their workstation and chair,” Stafford said. “Once I get an idea of what their workstation looks like, I’ll set up a call, preferably via video conference. Just from the angle of your camera, I can see important details like your desk and monitor height, and how far the monitor is from your face.”

Ergonomists in DHR have spent years determining proper human factors as well as establishing relationships with vendors to recommend proper equipment. They are also familiar with new technology and practices that could increase worker comfort. In your virtual assessment, the ergonomist will walk you through adjusting your workstation, and recommend any specialized equipment. New equipment must be approved by your supervisor and bought through your department’s regular purchasing process.

It can be challenging to maintain good ergonomic practices when working away from the office. Here are some tips for working from home:

  • Maintain a neutral neck position by placing the top of the screen at about eye level or slightly lower if using bifocal glasses.
  • Use a laptop stand or place your laptop on a stable support surface, such as monitor risers, reams of paper or books so that the screen height can be adjusted.
  • Attach a regular size, external keyboard and mouse to the laptop, and place them on an adjustable keyboard tray or desk. The keyboard and mouse should be positioned at or slightly below elbow height.
  • Use a docking station whenever possible to more closely resemble a standard desktop workstation where input devices can be attached.
  • Take frequent stretch breaks every 30 to 45 minutes. Visit the University of North Carolina’s Workplace Safety Office Ergonomics website to view additional rest and exercise ideas.
  • If your chair needs lumbar support, use a pillow or rolled up towel.

For more information, visit King County’s ergonomic evaluation website.