A while back I was on phone with tech support from a digital invoicing company. When I heard kids in the background I asked if he was working at the kitchen table and he responded that no, he was working from the sofa. I inquired whether he enjoyed working from home and he said he loved it, hopes never to go back to the office. Unfortunately, ergonomic injuries are cumulative and I’m not sure the final tally is in.
Working from the sofa is never ideal. In the photo above, my son in law is demonstrating a position common to very tall people. He is adapting his posture to get more support from the couch. Although the pressure on his neck is extreme, so is the pressure that most laptop users experience from slumping forward when their laptop screen is too low.
Because ergonomic injury is cumulative, you can get away with slumping at a laptop for very brief periods when you are on the road or on your sofa without causing musculoskeletal damage. Remember, the laptop was intended for portability, as an occasional solution.
But if you are using your laptop as your main or only computer it is essential to sit a desk most of the time, put your laptop on a riser, and use an external keyboard and mouse. And if you are buying a laptop for home use rather than use on the road and weight is not a factor, buy the biggest screen possible.
Working from the sofa is fun, and it works well with staying in pajamas all day. But if you plan on working from home long term (or as that customer service rep hoped, forever) you will need to start thinking about more healthy and viable solutions.
For occasional work on the sofa, the best thing to do is raise the top of the screen up to your eye level by placing your laptop on small height adjustable table or the arm of your couch if it is wide enough. This will allow you to work with arms and wrists supported and a raised screen. The lap “desk” in the photo above is a good start but it’s not enough.
Remember, the laptop was intended for portability, as an occasional solution.
At least this prop supports the user’s wrists in the neutral position. But if your screen is not raised high enough you will end up slumping forward to bring your eye level down to the top of the screen. We should always adjust the work environment to our bodies and not our bodies to the work environment.
Without a solution to raise your screen and support your forearms and wrists you shouldn’t work like this for too long. Mixing up different seating solutions during the day is good and working from the sofa is fun.
So is staying in your pajamas. But ultimately good habits must rule the day.