As I lie nearly horizontal on a West Elm Peggy couch that 1. has become a millennial cliche for bad design, and 2. is too short for my body, I can’t help but wonder how much working from home is messing up my back.
I can’t be alone. The move to remote work due to COVID-19 forced many people to make impromptu adjustments to accommodate a workstation (perhaps “workstation” is more appropriate). It can be hard to get your setup just right, especially when you might be tight on funds, or space, or maybe just ergonomics know-how. With this in mind, the furniture brand Herman Miller has created a tool to help you sit pretty at home—no matter what you’re sitting on.
This free WFH Assessment tool from Herman Miller—the firm behind coveted-by-many, owned-by-few pieces like the Aeron chair and Eames lounge chair—asks you a series of multiple-choice questions related to your environment, your physical support, and your ways of working, and then spits out an overall ergonomic score with some recommendations to improve it. It took me fewer than five minutes to complete. And though I probably didn’t need a quiz to tell me that my current WFH posture isn’t great, it did offer up a variety of ways to improve my work from home health beyond stopping slouching. And unlike a typical list, these are tailored specifically to you.
The evaluation asks a series of questions related to your setup: Do you have a dedicated station? Any greenery or natural light? Are you by yourself? How close are you to the computer screen? How’s your posture? My WFH station received an overall 51%—69% for my environment score, 33% for my physical support, and 38% for how I worked. One note: At the end of the evaluation, a window pops up asking for an email address, but you can skip that by just clicking through to your results at the bottom of that window.
After giving you a score, the tool offers tips to improve the behaviors and circumstances that brought it down, along with some scientific context. The WFH evaluation tool offered 27 different tips based on the results of my quiz. For instance, it suggested I add more natural light, which affects hormones—bright light coincides with productivity and low light coincides with rest. Others included being mindful of posture (with advice on how to improve it, like making your work surface elbow height and putting a solid object under your feet), and scheduling time for breaks (take 10 minutes every two hours and put it in your calendar so colleagues know you’re away).
Small fixes can make a big difference. And since we’ll all be WFH for a while (whether or not it’s with an Aeron chair) why not put some in place? If your evaluation results don’t convince you, maybe this model of the human form after 20 years of poor working conditions will. The outlook isn’t pretty. But, more importantly, it’s not healthy. So invest in some self care—without spending a dime.