Physical Health & Home Working, from a Webinar by Herman Miller

The webinar today [30th March 2020] was focussed on our physical and mental health and working environment at home, it was hosted by Bertie Van Wyk, [BvW] who is part of the research team at Herman Miller, US based furniture designers and manufacturers.

I have summarised the most useful information from the online seminar, with some basic advice and research to look at how this enforced working from home can impact on our physical and mental health and well-being.


Looking at the impact of the home environment on the body, firstly with muscles – when smaller muscles tire we compensate by using larger muscles. BvW showed us the eye test, try this now – looking up for 5 seconds then straight ahead, and then looking down for 5 secs. Normally its easier to look down due to the smaller muscles at top of eye. So if your screen is too high, it means there is more strain on your neck and head. 

Technology can be a pain to work with, discomfort and comfort are sometimes received differently in our brains. At Delft University in the Netherlands, they researched the impact of different colours of the same task chair, interestingly people said that brown was seen as less comfy!

Common areas of pain
  • Upper and lower back; too much sitting or too much standing, stress, and even smoking. 
  • Upper extremity – wrist and elbow; tech, typing, mouse work, thumbs on a smartphone
  • Vision, we can be stuck to our screens all the time, BvW quoted USA research showed adults spent an average of 3.48 hours a day on screens plus 4.46 hours watching TV, this will result in lots of strain.

It’s essential to create a routine to break this pattern of strain – See tips at the bottom of this post.

Reasons for pain; force – repetition, i.e. from Laptops and trackpad/mouse are worse – posture, – time/exposure. 

Physical ergonomics
  • Range of motion and support in a work chair, feet should be flat on the floor, but can be a challenge if you are not very tall.
  • Work surface height and adjustability, 
  • Monitor placement/flexibility, need laptop stand
  • Keyboard/mouse adjustment, use a separate mouse and keyboard with a laptop
  • Individual lighting control, use a common sense approach, avoid shadows and make the most of indirect daylight
task chair
The Office is a system
  • Setting – the ‘office’ is wherever you are, depends on what type of work you are doing, and now especially we use our choices based on the current activities we can do at home.
  • Mortality and sitting, variation and movement are key, build movement into your day –  too much standing is just as bad as too much sitting
  • 2 mins of gentle walking per hour reduces premature death risk by 33%!  So move every 30 mins. This is in addition to exercise at the end of the day.


Support is essential for not just your back. A good chair supports your back’s natural S- curve, so think about your posture.Back muscles

Head, it’s not easy holding up a bowling ball, which is about the same weight as. Ten-pin bowling ball, your neck carries all this weight, the head needs to be over your neck top of your screen should be at the top  pf your eyebrow, a heed rest is not needed,

Arms, there’s a ripple effect if your arms aren’t supported, no sharp edges curling into your wrists, distributed support, 

Buttocks, thighs, make sure there is good contact with the chair, feet on the ground, if you’re short, put them on the chair feet, but don’t have pressure on the thighs.

The final message was that a person is more than a body. Again, it’s vital to understand the importance of setting a routine at home, how you start your day? BvW’s advice is don’t watch the news, don’t pick up your ‘phone, give yourself 30-45 mins to just relax, try and do exercise its great for the mind and body, do yoga, mindfulness, sleep is extremely important for your body and mind, don’t have your ‘phone close to you, checking your ‘phone is disrupting to sleep patterns so you don’t get such a good recovery during the night.


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