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Comfort hacks for your home office

A man in a kitchen waves at a laptop screen on a counter.

If you're working from home these days, you may miss more than your co-workers: the comfortable chair, the desk that was just the right height. Working at your dining room table or sitting on the couch just isn't as comfortable, especially not for hours at a time.

You may not have the money or the space to create a more professional work area at home. But that doesn't mean you have to work in pain. There are inexpensive ways to turn your home workspace into a more comfortable one, using items you may already have around the house.

Here are some ideas from the American Occupational Therapy Association and other experts.

Hack your chair

When it comes to a comfort, your chair may be the most important tool you have. Ideally, it should have back support and sit at a height where your feet rest comfortably on the floor and your arms can angle slightly down toward a keyboard. The seat's edge should be 3 to 4 inches from the back of your knee.

If your chair doesn't quite fit the bill, try these tips:

  • Place a rolled hand or dish towel between your back and the chair for lower back support.
  • Use a cardboard box or stack of books as a makeshift footrest.
  • Add a pillow or blankets to the seat for cushioning or to boost your height.

Hack your monitor

The top of your computer monitor should be at eye level and sit at about an arm's length away from your face. Most monitors are adjustable, but if yours isn't, set it on a book or box to get it to the right height.

If you use two monitors, place the one you use the most right in front of you. The second monitor should be off to one side. That's better for your neck and back than splitting them directly in front of you.

Using a laptop? You may need to move the screen closer to you or bump up the zoom settings so you can see comfortably. If you have an external keyboard and mouse, use them and prop up the laptop screen to the correct height with a box or stack of books.

Hack your work surface

When you're touching your keyboard, your forearms should be roughly parallel to the floor, angled slightly down toward the keyboard. You don't want your wrists bending up and creating pressure on your carpal tunnel. Use washcloths for padded wrist rests, if needed.

Did you have a standing desk in the office? Try recreating one at home using your ironing board or a laundry basket placed on top of a table or counter.

If you prefer working with a laptop on your lap, place it on a hard surface like a food tray or baking sheet so as not to block its cooling vent. Then place the tray on top of a pillow on your lap so that you don't have to bend over the laptop while working.

Hack your habits

No matter how good your setup, it's not healthy to stay in one position for hours at a time. So take advantage of breaks to stand up, move around and look into the distance. And if there are tasks that can be done away from your computer, like phone calls, use that time to walk around or move to a different location for a bit.

Learn more about creating a healthy workspace in our Workplace Health topic center.

Reviewed 10/19/2020

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