Temporary Home Offices: Working in Small Spaces | St. Lawrence University Environmental Health and Safety

Temporary Home Offices: Working in Small Spaces

Working from home may present challenges including creating a dedicated workspace, ensuring comfort, safety and productivity.  If you live in a small space, this can present even greater challenges.

Temporary Home Offices: Working in Small Spaces

Information form Marsh & McLennan Companies Ergonomic Leadership Team

Working from home may present challenges including creating a dedicated workspace, ensuring comfort, safety and productivity.  If you live in a small space, this can present even greater challenges. The inability to dedicate a specific workspace can leave you feeling overwhelmed physically and emotionally.

Find a Space

Find a space that is versatile – office during the day; other functions after hours.

  • Natural light is best, but if not available, use a lamp that shines down rather than directly on the screen.
  • Make sure others (roommates, partner, children, & pets) know when it is ok and when it is not ok to interrupt you.
  • Start/stop your work day normally as you would in the office
  • Ensure good air flow
  • Keep the area organized and free of clutter

Take Regular Breaks

  • Take breaks (30 minute stretch/movement every hour)
  • Step away from your work area for lunch/breaks
  • Take a walk or exercise mid-day to clear your mind and refocus.
  • Focus on a specific task for a specific period of time
  • Keep your cords organized and out of the way.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets.

If You Do Not Have a Table or Desk

Try one of the following:

  • Tray table
  • Stack books on a coffee table
  • Bed tray
  • Low bookshelf
  • Shelving from home improvement store/online retailers supported well to provide a flat, sturdy surface
  • Large surface book like an atlas
  • Ironing Board
  • Several options available at online retailers for $30 or less
  • Never put the laptop directly on your lap
  • Try to keep elbows at or slightly higher than keyboard/laptop
  • Try to keep the top of your screen at eye level.
  • Consider using noise cancelling headphones to block out distractions
  • Keep wrists in line with forearms

 

Try Alternating Your Posture

Consider a kitchen work surface to provide alternation between sitting/standing

  • Try standing for 10 minutes of every half hour.
  • If you have an island with stools, try working there for portions of the day.

If You Do Not Have a Dining Chair

Consider the following if you have to work from a couch or recliner:

  • Ensure you have room to move your arms
  • Ensure you have room for any input devices (keyboard/mouse)
  • Use additional pillow to bring you forward on the couch to reduce slouching.
  • If the seat is too soft and you are sinking, add a bed pillow to provide some stability
  • If additional support is needed, use a small pillow behind your lower back to support the natural curve of your spine.
  • Keep feet flat on the floor or support feet on a book.

If Your Only Solution is Working From Your Bed 

  • Use pillows to support your upper and lower back.
  • Place a small pillow under the knees to alleviate pressure on lower back.
  • Support your laptop on a firm surface.

If you are having difficulties with your home workstation please contact Purchasing at purchasing@stlawu.edu and we can arrange for a virtual ergonomic assessment.

For additional tips on setting up a home office please visit Ergonomics: Tips for A Healthier Home Office.