Ergonomics - When School is at Home
Updated: Sep 18, 2020
If there are school aged children in your life, I bet I can assume that school, whether some of it or all of it, is happening in your kitchen or living room right now. We all know the obvious challenges that are presented when kids are learning at home, distractions, technology malfunctions, time spent away from work for parents to assist and supervise, among others. It’s tough for everyone!
There is one challenge that you might not be thinking about right now and that’s ergonomics and the negative outcome of poor posture and lack of movement. Your children may be experiencing this while using technology for school or even for recreation while at home. Think about their classrooms, especially for younger children, the tables, chairs, and desks they use everyday are sized for them and as they grow and move up in grades, the furniture systematically gets larger in scale. At home, you may not have scaled down furniture that is suitable for a child’s ergonomic posture and they are likely working at tables or desks and using chairs that are too large for them. Whether they are in properly sized furniture or perched on your old desk chair, here are some tips and suggestions that will improve their comfort, reduce fatigue, and help to enhance focus.
If using a standard height table (kitchen or dining table or adult sized desk) try to use an adjustable height computer chair if you have one. Raise the seat height of the chair to a higher position so the child is not typing with their arms raised up on the table but make sure they have a little space between their thighs and the underside of the table. If necessary, have them sit on a firm pillow or folded blanket to get a little more height. Also, prop a pillow between their back and the chair so they are not leaning back too far and place a box or small stool on the floor, so they have a firm place to put their feet. If their legs are dangling off the edge of the seat, this will begin to cut off the circulation in their legs causing discomfort and they will likely start to fidget excessively.
If your student uses a tablet for their primary technology, consider placing it on a stand or leaning it up against a sturdy object and using a separate keyboard and pointing device, typically a mouse. This will improve their posture by keeping them from leaning forward and
tipping their head down to view a screen lying flat on a table. Our heads are heavy and if leaning forward, that posture puts a lot of strain on the neck and upper shoulders which will cause fatigue over time. Also, they will have a better view of their screen and their classmates and teachers won’t be looking at the underside of their chin all day. The same approach could apply to a laptop as well.
If you have options, choose a smaller instead of a larger computer monitor or choose one that is height adjustable that can be lowered for better viewing.If the screen is too large or high, children will likely tip their heads back to view it which is a subconscious reaction to their eyes not being happy. A backward tilted head can compress the nerves in the neck and upper spine causing discomfort over time.
If using tablets or laptops, their mobility will allow you to consider implementing some movement strategies throughout the day. No one wants to sit in one place for an extended length of time and children have an advantage over adults that their bodies are more flexible, and they can comfortably use technology in a variety of postures.
Coffee tables are the perfect height for a child to sit or kneel on the floor and view their technology and again, use a stand or prop the tablet against a solid object for optimum viewing. Also, laying on the floor with their tablet in front of them gives their body an opportunity to relax and stretch out. Using end tables in the living room or kitchen table may be ideal heights for standing to view their technology. Standing is a “neutral” posture for our bodies where we are putting the least amount of stress on our joints and back.
Finally, make sure there is adequate lighting in the space where they will be doing the bulk of their schoolwork and watch for glare on their screens.As we get older, our eyes need more lighting to see better but children need adequate lighting too. Lack of lighting or excessive glare on screens causes our eyes to fatigue and may spark headaches over time.
The most important strategy is to keep children moving and changing their posture throughout the day. Whether its switching to standing or laying on the floor between lessons or moving to a new seated posture, they will benefit from the flexibility with reduced discomfort and enhanced focus. Also, when possible, try some basic stretching exercises or just have them run around outside for a few minutes to help them feel refreshed and ready to go again.
For more resources regarding ergonomic strategies, please visit our website at www.bewellergo.com
Parents and caregivers, if you need assistance with your personal workspaces, either in your home office or your business location, we can assist with evaluation and consulting services to improve your posture, reduce the risk of fatigue and enhance performance so you can Be Well in your workplace.