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7 Tips to Make Your Home Study Space Work for You

04/10/2020

In response to COVID-19, we’ve seen a rapid and massive shift to working and learning at home.

Whether or not you’re used to learning online and working at home — and regardless of your space limitations — it’s important to create a study environment that’s comfortable and not distracting.

“Ergonomics are incredibly important,” Dr. Janice Lwin, the American Career College physical therapy program director and 2019 ABHES Master Teacher of the Year, explained. “As a practicing physical therapist for 17 years, I’ve learned that many dysfunctions in the body — including carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, low back pain and tennis elbow — are the result of poor ergonomics and posture. It’s more than just sitting up straight. You need to strengthen core muscles to help you maintain good posture."

Dr. Rachelle Murphy, the occupational therapy assistant program director at ACC-Orange County, who holds a master’s in occupational therapy and a doctorate in health, offers some do's and don’ts for creating an ergonomic home study space.

The do’s: 
  • Stick to a regular routine. You’ll be more productive and alert when you get up at the usual time in the morning, exercise, shower, change into regular clothes, and designate specific times for work/breaks/meals/etc. Resist the temptation to stay in your pajamas.
  • Choose one primary workspace (that’s not your bedroom). Designate a specific area in your home for studying and learning, complete with computer, supplies, etc. Try to leave your study materials there so you can maintain the separation between your living area and work area.  
  • Use a comfortable office chair. Make sure your feet stay flat on the floor and your chair provides good back support. If you start experiencing lower back pain, use a rolled-up towel or small blanket between the chair and your lower back to provide lumbar support. You can also use pillows to cushion your seat to increase comfort. Place phone books or boxes under your feet if necessary to maintain a flat position.
  • Keep your laptop on an elevated surface. The top of your monitor should be eye-level. This will help avoid neck straining. To avoid strain on your forearm and wrist, bend your elbows around 90 degrees when you use your laptop keyboard.
The don’ts 
  • Don’t stay in any position for too long. Stand up to work on occasion, walk around while you’re on the phone and vary your position if you stay seated for long periods throughout the day.
  • Don’t use your bedroom as your workspace. Keep this space reserved for sleeping and relaxing.
  • Don’t use your laptop mouse and keyboard all day. Use an external mouse and keyboard on occasion to help avoid pressure points that put stress on your wrists and forearms.

“It all comes down to this: Don’t do anything that’s uncomfortable,” Lwin said. "I can’t stress enough how important it is to exercise daily and keep moving throughout the day — even if it’s 10 minutes of walking around or doing some simple sit-ups, push-ups and squats. The more you get your blood flowing and muscles working in different ways, the healthier and more alert you’ll be, not to mention more productive.”

ACC cannot guarantee employment. Programs vary by campus. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.

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