6 Ergonomic Tips for Working from Home

Last updated: Jun 6, 2023

By now, it’s clear that the Work from Home movement is here to stay. “The pandemic has started a revolution in how we work, and our research shows working from home can make firms more productive and employees happier,” explains a Stanford University economist in this CNN article. Even as more workers return to the office, hybrid schedules — which allow employees to work a few days a week from home — will remain common. Of full-time U.S. workers who can do their jobs remotely, 41 percent work a hybrid schedule.


Whether you’re new to the hybrid lifestyle or an old pro, you’ll find that remote work comes with big perks ­ – besides the obvious ones, like saving time on your commute. Your cat is now a celebrity on Teams meetings. Your work pants double as your sleep pants. And no one can make you suffer in freezing AC, because you control the thermostat. What a power rush.


But as many of us have slowly slid into this new normal, we may not have checked to see whether our home office is actually ergonomic. Some of us may have even picked up bad habits, like typing emails from our bed because we don’t want to disturb the celebrity cat on our lap. This can add up to long-term damage to your body: “About $1 billion a week is spent in the United States to deal with entirely preventable work-related injuries, many of which are caused by small flaws in body positioning,” explains this New York Times article on ergonomic workspaces.


To avoid these injuries, it’s time to take stock of your setup and habits. We’re here to help with these six ergonomic tips for remote workers. (Quick disclaimer: please don’t misconstrue this blog post as medical advice. If you are experiencing any pain or have any concerns or questions about your work environment, contact your doctor.)


6. Set Yourself Up for Success

You don’t need a fancy home office to be successful. But you do need to make sure each aspect of your environment — from the chair cushion to the height of your computer monitor – reduces strain on your body and keeps you in a “neutral, relaxed position.” These recommendations from Wirecutter can help you choose ergonomic equipment. You can also use this checklist from Cornell to evaluate your workspace. Here’s a few highlights to consider:

  • Your desk: An adjustable desk that allows you to sit or stand is ideal because it lets you change positions – and your body doesn’t like staying in one place for too long.

  • Your mouse and keyboard: Keep your shoulders relaxed, your elbows close to your side, and your hands “at or slightly below the level of your elbows.” Your wrists should be in a neutral, straight position.

  • Your chair: When sitting, your feet should be firmly on the ground. The chair should support your back in various positions, including reclining and sitting upright. The seat should be comfortable (if not, consider adding a cushion to make it firmer or softer. The cat doesn’t count).

  • Your computer screen: Position your computer screen so that it’s an arm’s length away. When you stretch out your right arm, your middle finger should “just point to the center of the screen.” That way, you won’t be tilting your neck too far up or down.

  • Your workstation: Remove clutter from below your desk so you can sit, stand, and stretch your legs comfortably. Keep objects you frequently use within easy reach.

5. Warm Up, Wind Down

You’ve outfitted your workstation with ergonomic equipment. You’ve explained to your cat why you can’t hunch over her body to type. Now you’re ready to “warm up” for work.


If you work a desk job, you probably don’t think of yourself as an athlete. But an eight-hour typing session is like a marathon for your fingers, wrists, and arms. And just like a runner, you need to warm up before you start sprinting to 5 PM. Before you reach for the mouse, try some easy stretches like these and these. (Be sure to talk to your doctor or physical therapist about exercises that address your particular issues and stop these stretches if they cause pain or tingling!)


At the end of the day, do some more stretches to relax your muscles. You can even incorporate some self-massage for particularly achy days (or a spa experience). This handheld hot-stone-like tool is great for the arms.

A female professional drinking coffee while working from home.

4. Give Your Body Breaks

When you’re on deadline, it’s tempting to type nonstop (or at least until your cat screams for food. She’s a celebrity, after all). But this ceaseless, repetitive motion can lead to serious damage. Instead, set your phone alarm to remind you to take regular breaks.


According to this advice from Harvard, “Many short breaks are better than a few long ones. Taking a break can be as simple as taking your hands off the keyboard and letting your arms droop at your sides. Every half hour, get up from your desk and stretch to loosen your neck and shoulder muscles. Try to take 10 minutes of breaks every hour, more if you need it.”


If you already have symptoms of a Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI), subtract 10 minutes from the amount of time you can type/click without pain. That’s how long you should work before taking a break. For example, if you can work for 25 minutes before you start feel pain in your wrists, take a short break every 15 minutes, says this Harvard article.


During breaks, you can switch up your work activity while still keeping your mind busy. For example, after you have been writing for 20 minutes, take a breath to brainstorm how you are going to approach your next paragraph or hop on a Teams meeting with your colleague. But there is also a big benefit to stepping away from work entirely.


3. Give Your Mind a Break, Too

You’ll actually be more productive if you give your mind some down-time throughout the workday. As this New York Times article explains, regular breaks help maintain focus and attention: “An unquestioned assumption in our culture holds that the more hours spent on work — whether a passion project or office drudgery — the better we’ll perform and the more successful and happier we’ll be… We waste hours keeping on going when our concentration’s long gone, caught in drowsy, drawn-out moments staring glumly at a screen…” Instead, the author of the article suggests using the popular time management tool, the Pomodoro method. In the Pomodoro method, you integrate regular breaks in a cycle such as this:

  • Work (without interruption) for 25 minutes.
  • Take a five-minute break.
  • Work (without interruption) for 25 minutes.
  • Take a five-minute break.
  • Work (without interruption) for 25 minutes.
  • Take a five-minute break.
  • Work (without interruption) for 25 minutes.
  • After working for an hour and 25 minutes, take a half-hour break before re-starting the cycle. 

One of the best break activities? Walking. “When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen to not just the muscles but to all the organs — including the brain,” explains this New Yorker article on the benefits of walking. The article cites a study of 76 college students who were asked to come up with unique uses for everyday objects. Students who went for a walk came up with four to six more ideas than students who remained seated.

A female professional working from home at her standing desk.

2. Try Dictation

If your job involves a lot of typing, you might consider learning dictation software, such as Nuance Dragon, which comes in a desktop version for PCs and a mobile app for PCs and Macs. Most of us aren’t used to writing with our voices, so it can feel strange at first. But the more you practice, the more natural it will become. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Watch tutorials. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find yourself dictating punctuation marks (like saying the word “period” at the end of sentences) and giving voice commands (like saying “new paragraph” instead of hitting the return key).

  • Dictate texts and emails. Before you try dictating a complicated project, practice on simple correspondence, which feels natural to speak aloud.

  • Listen to music. If the sound of your own voice distracts you, play music. You can use earphones to listen to the music and a headset or standalone microphone to capture your voice.

  • Limit outside noise. The dictation software is highly sensitive, so try to practice in a quiet environment. (You may have to bribe your celebrity cat with a special treat to accomplish this.)

  • Make sure you have a good Wi-Fi connection for the best response.

If dictation isn’t for you, look for other creative ways you can cut down on your repetitive movements. Do you type all day for work and then text with a friend after hours? Send voice memos or do a phone call instead. (When you do talk on the phone, use a headset or earphones so you aren’t straining your arm or neck.)


1. Ask an Expert

The best thing you can do for your body is to talk to your primary care doctor, an expert in ergonomics, or an occupational or physical therapist. Even if you aren’t having pain now, a consultation with a medical professional can help you learn simple stretches and ergonomic set-ups that meet your specific health needs. This short-term investment will lead to long-term gains because you’ll be less likely to experience a repetitive stress injury that could set you back in your career and earning potential.


Looking for more ways to incorporate wellness into your work day? Check out our 30 Ways to Reduce Stress.