Out of Office Ergonomics: How to Optimize 3 Popular Summer Work Spots

If you can’t go all-out on summer vacation, the next best thing is a cottage staycation or afternoon work session on the porch. That said, R&R furniture isn’t the most ergonomic, so limit your alfresco work time and try these ergo-boosting tips from Rachel Mitchell, R. Kin., CCPE, ERGO Inc., ergonomics expert for Staples Canada’s Work From Anywhere Advisory Council.

THE WORKSPACE: The lakeside wooden Adirondack chairs at your Airbnb rental

ERGONOMICS CHALLENGE: “The reclined posture of an Adirondack chair makes positioning a laptop more difficult,” says Mitchell, potentially leading to aches or strain.

MAKE IT ERGO FRIENDLY:

• Roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back for support (but ensure your entire back maintains contact with the backrest).

• Use a lapdesk to elevate your laptop for better visibility and typing.

• Position your chair to minimize screen glare and tilt your screen back to prevent an excessively bent neck posture.

• Limit Adirondack chair work sessions to 30 minutes, max.

MITCHELL’S PRO TIP: Consider moving to a more upright patio chair, then “place your laptop on a side table directly in front of you to achieve a more optimal working posture. Try to position the hips, knees, and elbows at 90-degree angles,” she advises.

THE WORKSPACE: Your outdoor patio table

ERGONOMICS CHALLENGE: “The biggest ergonomic concern when working off a laptop for prolonged periods is the forward head position when looking down. The further forward the head bends, the higher the loading on the neck. This is often referred to as Tech Neck,” notes Mitchell.

MAKE IT ERGO FRIENDLY:

• Tilt the screen back to improve the viewing angle – but watch out for glare. This can be mitigated with an adjustable patio umbrella and repositioning your chair at different times of day.

• Choose a chair with a supportive back.

• If this is your usual work from home setup, consider upgrading with a compact keyboard, laptop riser (to bring the screen level with your eyes), and an ergonomic wireless mouse for greater comfort.

MITCHELL’S PRO TIP: “Try placing an empty ringed, 3-inch binder under the laptop to incline the device. This raises the height of the screen slightly, and the positive angle on the keyboard works to your advantage, keeping the wrists straight when working on a patio table, which is too high for most users since it is above seated elbow height,” says Mitchell.

THE WORKSPACE: A lounger on the beach

ERGONOMICS CHALLENGE: “Sitting in a low chair, with your hips lower than your knees can place additional strain on your low back,” says Mitchell.

MAKE IT ERGO FRIENDLY: • Don’t use your laptop. Stick to your smartphone and keep work sessions limited to phone calls or brief emails.

• Use voice dictation apps or phone features to give your thumbs a break from typing.

• Invest in a comfortable, wireless headset with microphone.

• Limit work sessions to 20-30 minutes, max.

MITCHELL’S PRO TIP: Whether you’re at a resort or toting your gear to a campsite, “select your beach chair carefully: ideally something with a supportive backrest that keeps your hips and knees at the same level,” advises Mitchell.  

WORK FROM ANYWHERE ADVICE

If your summer plans include working on the road, it’s time to invest in an ergonomics upgrade. Two of Mitchell’s must-haves are a portable laptop riser and external ergonomic keyboard and mouse.

“Finally, to protect long-term health, you should spend the bulk of your work week at a desk that has been set up with proper ergonomics in mind,” notes Mitchell. If you’re balancing work and play, wake up early to hammer out tasks at a proper desk or table while sitting on an ergonomic chair (we recommend the Gry Mattr + ergoCentric sCentric Hybrid Task Chair), then shutdown and enjoy the rest of your day offline.

Want to learn more? Watch Mitchell’s ergonomic workstation tutorial here.

Read more:

Top 4 Myths About Workspace Ergonomics

Out of Office: The Psychology of Remote Work

Hybrid Workplace: How to Upgrade Your Home and Office Space

By Staples Canada

June 30, 2022