Working from home?

Saint Alphonsus Physical Therapist Bob Smetanka demonstrates how to achieve proper ergonomics in home offices, such as ensuring your elbows are at a 90-degree angle at desktop height, as pictured here. He suggests sitting on books or pillows to raise yourself higher if need be.

BOISE

With more people working from home due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders by the Governors of Idaho and Oregon, more people have transitioned their office to their homes. But often, the ergonomics of the at-home office aren’t adequate to protect the user from aches and pains, including back, arm and neck pain.

Saint Alphonsus Physical Therapist Bob Smetanka is featured in a video offering instruction on how to set up an ergonomically-correct workstation at home. The video features suggestions on proper chair alignment, keyboard and mouse placement, monitor orientation and where to place your feet to maintain proper posture. Bob also demonstrates several stretches and exercises that the user can use to relieve strain and stress of long sessions in front of the computer.

“During this difficult time of work closures and social distancing, employees as well as their employers are grateful for the opportunity to continue active work at home.  However, the home environment does not have the same amenities and ergonomically-correct workstations available in the office,” said Vanessa Reed, Saint Alphonsus manager of Rehabilitation Services. “But when those workers set up at home, they often must make do with what they have – the dining room table or a card table, and maybe they’re using a chair from the kitchen. These are not ideal tools for working safely at home. Bob shows people how to prepare their workspace to avoid neck, back and wrist injuries that will last long after they return to their workplace.”

To set up a proper home office, Smetanka offers the following suggestions.

• If your chair is adjustable, set it so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle at desktop height.  If necessary, sit on a pillow or a book to raise your seat;

• Align your computer monitor so that it is no higher than eye level. Looking up at the screen can cause neck strain;

• Try to keep your wrists in mid-position so that you are not extending your wrists while typing.  You may need to place some padding under your wrists to improve comfort and positions.  

Smetanka has been with Saint Alphonsus for 21 years, in roles involving physical therapy, workplace safety and ergonomics. He has 45 years’ experience as an athletic trainer and physical therapist, and studied at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University (Michigan) and Western Illinois University.

“There are simple things people can do while working at home to prevent injuries,” Smetanka said. “Sometimes it’s as easy as putting a book or pillow on your chair to maintain proper height or realigning your monitor to reduce glare and eye strain. This video helps those now working in less-than-ideal environments stay productive and healthy.”

Smetanka also spent ten years working on outpatient physical therapy and performing ergonomic evaluations at Micron Technology’s Boise site, and Saint Alphonsus has produced a similar video specifically for Micron and the needs of their team members working from home during the pandemic.

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