Work from Home - It Is Causing More Pain, Yet Many Prefer Working from Home

Elizabeth Schnurr
No Pain is Gain in our Working World! People choose work from home even if it hurts more. Let Ability at Work's Ergonomic Pros prevent your pain. We do phone and video consultations. Our ergonomic professionals will help you determine your ergonomic needs and the best set up for your home office workstation. This will help to prevent and resolve your pain from poorly designed workstations.


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Ergonomic Trends That Are Reinventing Work Sphere

Elizabeth Schnurr
Employees with a desk job are often stuck at their desk for at least 8+ hours doing the same tasks again and again. These repetitive movements and sticking to a particular posture for a long-time duration often gives rise to various health problems including obesity, lowered athleticism, lethargy, and even mental illness.

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How Do You Tell If Your Workstation Isn’t Ergonomic?

Elizabeth Schnurr

Our bodies need to be moved, stretched, and used. That is why sitting for long durations may result in health issues, more so if your chair is not ergonomically designed. While most of us don’t give a second thought about our office chairs, we all should! Using ergonomic chairs is of utmost importance for your well-being, and an ErgoCentric office chair is an excellent option.

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The Essential Do’s And Don’ts Of Buying Office Furniture

Elizabeth Schnurr

Office furniture does more than affect your workspace aesthetics. It plays a crucial role in enhancing employee productivity, health, morale, and more. If the team is not happy with the working space, the work may suffer. Renovate your office with ergocentric furniture to address concerns like health, teamwork, and productivity! You can buy ergocentric products in Canada from us. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to follow when investing in new office furniture:

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Choosing Your Ergonomic Office Chair- You Need the Right Height

Elizabeth Schnurr
  1. Why do I have pain in my forearm muscles?
  2. Why do I have lower back pain?

Does this scenario sound familiar? Your employer ordered new office chairs, which are all the same. You are short in stature. Your keyboard is on the desk top. Your chair seat goes up to about 18 inches, and your desk is about 29 to 30 inches high. You cannot get your bent elbows to be at the same height as your keyboard on the desk, so you pull your chair and arm rests underneath the desktop, and push your keyboard back, and rest your forearms on the desk top.

What is the problem? Ergonomically, we should not be resting our arms on the hard desktop. It causes contact stress to our arms and elbows. The arm rests of the chair, which should ideally be cushioned, are meant to support our arms, with our elbows at a 90-degree angle. Another problem is that you will be sitting in a forward shoulder and upper back posture, leaning forward with your lower back. Lower back flexion can eventually lead to lower back pain. Despite the chair having a backrest, you are not using it if you are leaning forward. Your shoulders are also in a flexed position, with your arms reaching forward farther and higher.

Another problem that I have encountered lately with resting the hands in front of the keyboard is an increase in forearm pain from repetitive strain. Try something for me: Put one hand forward on your desk, resting the base of your hand on the desk, and lift your hand and fingers, alternating as if you are keyboarding. Put your other hand on top of your forearm. Where do you feel muscles activating? In the top of your forearm? Those are your finger extensor muscles. Now put your hand over the keyboard, and strike the keys with your fingers only moving downward, keeping your wrists straight and not extended or dropped. Feel your forearm again. Are the muscles contracting less? They should be.

Keyboarding technique is the same as playing the piano. Your hands should be above the keys, with your fingers cupped and bent. The forces should be downward and light, and your fingers should not have to lift higher than required to move them to another key. Keeping your wrists flat or straight will help prevent stretching of the tendons in your inner wrist, which could cause Carpal tunnel inflammation.

Therefore, is your chair related to the pain you are feeling in your forearms? YES, it could be.

If your chair goes to the right height, where your bent elbows can be positioned at the same height as your keyboard, and supported by the arm rests, you should be able to sit with your back supported against the back rest. What was the underlying problem for the pain you may have experienced in the top of your forearms? Should you buy a new “ergonomic” keyboard? No! The real problem is that your chair seat is too low and doesn’t go high enough. Also, you are resting your hands in front of the keyboard, causing increased muscle activity in your forearms.

Ergonomic Solutions:

  1. Get a chair that goes high enough for its armrest and your bent-elbows to be at the same height as your keyboard.
    Install a height adjustable keyboard tray, to lower your keyboard to your bent-elbow height. (This option only works if you have the right workstation set up and the keyboard tray will not be in your way.)
  2. Sit with your back against the back rest of the chair.
  3. Support your arms on the arm rests while typing or between periods of typing, allowing your hands to float over the top of the keys without over-activating your forearm extensor muscles.


Forearm with muscle pain in extensor muscles

Sitting with hands keyboarding and resting in front of keyboard.

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    Let’s Get Nit-Picky About Choosing Your Ergonomic Office Chair!

    Elizabeth Schnurr

    Is your office chair causing discomfort? Are you looking for a new one? How will you choose the right chair for yourself? If your coworker really likes their chair, is that the best option for you? Did your employer purchase the same chairs for everyone at your workplace, thinking that “One Size Fits All”? Is an office chair a big investment for you?

    If the manufacturer is known for making high- rated “ergonomic office chairs”, does that make it a good chair for you? There are several popular chair manufacturers in Canada, where most of our office chairs come from. They include Global Furniture, Offices to Go (also Global-made), ErgoCentric (my preferred ergonomic chair manufacturer), Ergonomic Accessories Inc., KP Products, Horizon Furniture Group, Steelcase and Nightingale Chairs, to name a few. There are also big-name chair companies with headquarters in the United States, including Humanscale and Herman Miller.

    Each of these companies also makes several models of their chairs, with different operating mechanisms, control levers, seat shapes and sizes, back rest shapes and sizes, and so on. Then there are mesh-back chairs, which are supposed to be cooler (and more stylish by some standards). There are mesh-seat chairs too! There are different types of armrests, different shapes, made of polyurethane or upholstered, some swivel or pivot a little, some turn all the way around. Arm rests come in different heights. Some are flat, some rounded on top and some are concave (as if we type with both arms reaching forward and not inward!)

    There is also a wide price range for office chairs. You can buy a reasonable quality chair for under $300 CDN at Staples, or Grand and Toy. Is it worth spending that much money on a chair that you think looks “OK”? The prices for ergonomic office chairs can range from around $300 to over $1000 CDN.

    Since many of us are working from home now, because of COVID19, we might have a need for a better office chair to use at home. At Ability at Work, we have over 20 years of experience completing Ergonomic Assessments, and making recommendations to fit a chair to the individual’s body build and needs. In fact, in all these years, we have never had a client tell us that they did not like their chair, and I think that is a great track record!! Call us and let us help you choose a chair with the features that you need!

    Ergonomic-Tip: When it comes to office chairs, we all have different needs, and cost allowances, so why not get some free expert advice on which chair will best meet your individual needs before you make your investment? Call us at 519-894-1419.

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    The Importance of Taking Micro Breaks When Working from Home

    Elizabeth Schnurr

    It’s time for a confession… “My name is Betty Ann and I am a workaholic.” One of my greatest weaknesses is that I don’t like to break focus, and stop working on something once I get into it! I need to get the job done! I mean it can take so long to get started and get into it. Can you relate?

    I feel it can be so hard to get back into focus, once you take a break! Breaking our train of thought or pushing through to finish the task or project makes it hard to take physical breaks! Yet pushing through is not the best approach either!

    When working at your workplace, you are entitled to taking breaks. However, I know many people, including myself and my friends, are not taking enough breaks when working from home during Covid-19 isolation.

    We humans are not created to sit for eight hours at a time (I remind myself as I write this). Extended periods of sitting increases the risk of the development of muscle and joint pain and stiffness, bodily weakness, health deterioration, cardiovascular diseases, and brain fatigue. It is important to stay active at work and take a break from sitting. Micro breaks can reduce muscular fatigue and pain while improving efficiency and productivity.

    Sitting for long periods of time decreases your heart rate, which reduces blood flow to the brain. This affects the ability to think clearly. Micro breaks with body movement increase your heart rate, supplying the muscles with the nutrients that they require to function, causing the body and mind to become more alert. Additionally, micro breaks help restore stability back to the muscles to improve posture, ultimately reducing pain that can lead to ergonomic injuries. It also rests your eyes to look away from your screens and change focus.

    Workers who are more comfortable and alert are more productive. They are able to focus on their assigned tasks instead of becoming distracted by fatigue or pain. May is “Focus on Mental Health Month.” Taking a few minutes for a micro-break every hour to stand up, walk around, stretch out our body and breathe deeper will help improve our brain function. Taking a 15-minute break twice per day and a half-hour for a meal break mid-shift will go a long way in helping us improve our productivity and keep our brain and thought-process fresh. We can get used to taking the breaks. Take me up on the challenge!

    Ergonomic Tip: Micro breaks will decrease pain and improve worker attitude and productivity wherever we are working. Work smarter, not harder!

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    Arm Rests - To Use or Not to Use, That Is the Question

    Elizabeth Schnurr

    I remember several years ago, attending a seminar with fellow Ergonomic Consultants, and we later had a discussion about whether we promote our clients to use the arm rests of their office chair, or not to use them. Amazingly to me, about half of us said we would promote their use, and the other half said, “No, I don’t; they just get in the way.” Wow, I was surprised and still am! I just assumed everyone would agree with me!

    I think about this discussion often, likely every time I complete an office Ergonomic Assessment (which is very often, actually.)

    First, let’s just use our common sense. When you are driving, long after you have obtained your licence do you continue to hold the steering wheel with your arms at 10:00 and 2:00, as your driving instructor enforced? I mean for long periods of time. Sure, we can do that for about 15 minutes, if driving is tense, but if we are cruising on the highway, my bet is you, like me, are going to change your hand positions often, and even sometimes hold with one hand, down close to your lap, at the bottom of the wheel, and also rest your right arm on the console between the seats, and your left arm on the arm rest of the door. Why? Because it is “TIRING” to hold your hands up higher on the steering wheel- with your arms reaching straight forward for long periods of time. We like our arms to be relaxed! Even if your hands are supported, by holding the wheel.

    What about keyboarding and mousing? We reach forward a bit to the keyboard. This can be tiring too. If you are not supporting your arms on the arm rests, where are you supporting your arms? In my experience, most people are supporting their hands in front of the keyboard, either with their wrists or the base of their palms on a keyboard wrist pad, or with the keyboard pushed farther away, they rest their forearms on the desk.

    It looks a bit like this:

    Arms not supported, hands touching desk a bit in front of keyboard.


    Resting forearms and elbows on desk top, with keyboard pushed farther away.

    From my experience, many computer users are resting their arms on the desks, and not on the arm rests of their chair. And I am seeing the results with more referrals!

    Again, using our common sense (which many people think that the practice of Ergonomics is- just common sense- but I don’t agree….) look at the 2 photos above, and think about what physical symptoms these computer users might experience, if they are using a computer, full-time, for 5 days per week?

    Send me your comments and feedback- this article to be continued next week.

    Coming up next:

    What happens when we don’t use arm rests? (hint- the dreaded four-letter “P”word)

    Why don’t we use arm rests? (hint- we don’t know better…)

    How and When to use our arm rests? (hint- it takes a bit of technical know-how)

    What if  we can’t use our arm rests? (hint- There is a solution to every problem)

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    Interrupt Sitting with Movement to Lower Early Death Risk Studies Suggest

    Elizabeth Schnurr

    Too much time spent in a chair could shorten our lives, even if we exercise, according to a study that uses objective measures to find the links between lengthy sitting time and death among middle-aged and older adults.

    More hopefully, the study also suggests that we might be able to take steps to reduce our risks by taking steps every half-hour or so.

    Most of us almost certainly have heard by now that being seated and unmoving all day is unhealthy. Many epidemiological studies have noted that the longer people sit on a daily basis, the likelier they are to develop various diseases, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. They also are at heightened risk for premature death.

    This association between sitting and ill health generally remains, the past science shows, whether people exercise or not.

    But most of these studies have relied on people's memories of how they spent their time, and our recall about such matters tends to be unreliable. The studies also usually have focused on the total number of hours that someone sits each day. Some scientists have begun to wonder whether our patterns of sitting – how long we sit at a stretch, and whether, when and how often we stand up and move – might also have health implications. And they have questioned whether gender, race or weight might alter how sitting affects us.

    So for the new study, published Sept. 12 in Annals of Internal Medicine, scientists from Columbia University and many other institutions turned to an extensive database of health information about tens of thousands of Caucasian and African-American men and women 45 or older who were part of a study of stroke risk. The study was primarily funded through the National Institutes of Health, and partly through the Coca-Cola Co.

    The participants had undergone a battery of health tests, and about 8,000 of them also had worn accelerometers for a week to track their daily movements.

    Accelerometers are, of course, an objective measure of how much and often someone sits, exercises or otherwise moves about. They do not hedge about those hours you spent sprawled on the couch binge-watching "30 Rock."

    The scientists pulled the records for the accelerometer group.

    They then stratified the participants into groups depending on how many hours per day each person sat, as well as how long each bout of sitting had continued uninterrupted – 10 minutes? 60 minutes? more? – and how much time, if any, they had spent exercising (mostly with walks).

    Finally, they checked these records against mortality registries, looking for deaths that had occurred within about four years of the participants having worn the accelerometers and completed other health tests.

    Even in this short time, about 5 per cent of the participants of all ages had died. (The scientists discarded data from people who had died within a year of their testing, since they might have had an underlying illness that increased their fatigue and prompted them to sit often.)

    The scientists then found strong statistical correlations between sitting and mortality. The men and women who sat for the most hours every day, according to their accelerometer data, had the highest risk for early death, especially if this sitting often continued for longer than 30 minutes at a stretch. The risk was unaffected by age, race, gender or body mass.

    It also was barely lowered if people exercised regularly.

    But interestingly, the risk of early death did drop if sitting time was frequently interrupted. People whose time spent sitting usually lasted for less than 30 minutes at a stretch were less likely to have died than those whose sitting was more prolonged, even if the total hours of sitting time were the same.

    In essence, the data showed that "both the total hours spent sitting each day and whether those hours are accrued in short or long bouts" of physical stillness influenced longevity, said Keith Diaz, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University, who led the new study.

    The results also indicate that if you must be chair-bound for much of the day, moving every 30 minutes or so might lessen any long-term deleterious effects, he said, a finding that adds scientific heft to the otherwise vague suggestion that we all should sit less and move more.

    This study was, however, associational. It cannot prove that too much sitting undermines health, only that the two were linked.

    It also used data about deaths from any cause, which might have included automobile or other accidents unlikely to have been affected by sedentary time. And the accelerometers could not readily distinguish between sitting and standing, Diaz said, so the "breaks" in sitting time in this study always involved walking about and not merely standing up.

    In future randomized experiments, Diaz and his colleagues hope to better parse how often and how much people need to move during breaks in order to lessen sitting's risks, and whether standing by itself is effective or we must move about.

    In the meantime, consider setting an alert on your phone or computer to remind you every half-hour to get up and move. You might try to time your stand-up breaks to do something you wanted to do anyway – get a cup of coffee, grab something from the printer, or simply walk across the room to talk to a colleague face-to-face.

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    ErgoEquip is Expanding!

    Elizabeth Schnurr

    Introducing the Services of Ability at Work:

    Are you looking to improve the comfort and productivity of your employees or yourself? 

    Call or email us for an Ergonomic Consultation or Training Session today! 

    We provide onsite Assessments and Training across Ontario, Canada.

    We also provide Virtual Ergonomic Assessments across Canada and United States!

    Please call: 519-894-1419

    Or email us at:

    We will recommend the most suitable and cost-effective solutions to accommodate for your employees' specific and individual needs.

    Welcome to our new website! If you have any questions, please contact us.

    Thank you very much for working with us to meet the Health And Safety needs of your workplace!

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