Credit: Livspace, A typical bedroom study, with a comfortable work chair, a sturdy table and enough storage.

Tips on getting the ergonomics and aesthetics right for your WFH station

With home-office becoming the new normal, you will need a dedicated workspace to improve focus and reduce distraction, and furniture that maximises comfort as you work for hours at a stretch

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

Did you know that 22 per cent of students have been taking online classes from their bed and another 14 per cent rolled on the floors even as they were learning? The study by Godrej Interio further reveals that adults are just as bad, working from their sofas, dining tables and beds.

Let’s face it. Indian houses aren’t well-equipped for WFH. Had it been for a month or two it would have been fine, but to have kids hunched over a portable laptop table over their beds to complete their assignments or lounging from a sofa over the long term will have a disastrous impact on their health. Says Chandni Bhagat, child psychologist: “As children are home-schooling for the second consecutive year, they are grappling with several issues such as increased screen time, reduced physical activity and bad postures, which they may be unable to freely express. But blended learning is here to stay.” Education expert says that hybrid learning will be the future, and in offices too, ‘flex is the future’.

If these formats of partly working from office and partly from home are here to stay, it’s time we created appropriate workplace solutions at home. “Home furniture is not designed to support work long hours of work,” says Sameer Joshi, Associate Vice President, Marketing (B2B), Godrej Interio. “Most individuals realise that their current home settings are not conducive to long hours of work. Even for children, parents should invest in an ergonomic desk, an adjustable chair of the right size, laptop stands that can be adjusted to make sure they are at the right height, a separate keyboard, and a mouse. At the same time, the study area should be properly illuminated to reduce the strain on children’s eyes.”

Ergonomic study

Once you realise that it’s important to create a dedicated workspace for yourself to improve focus and reduce distraction, invest in furniture that ensures maximum comfort while working for long hours at a stretch.

Let’s start with the chair. The height of the chair is a function of the user’s height. Adults and teenagers need bigger chairs, children need smaller ones. For very small kids, child-safe chair with rounded edges is recommended. A chair can cost you anything from Rs 5,000 to even Rs 60,000, depending upon its upholstery, tilt features, backrest angle and the number of adjustability control features.

Get a chair that fits you. “Prince Charming uses the glass slipper to find Cinderella because it fits only her feet,” says Shiraz Ibrahim, Managing Director Transteel Seating Technologies Private Limited. “This fairy tale highlights human uniqueness. We are of different sizes and shapes and fitting the chair to user is required for a comfortable fit.”

Working professionals prefer chairs with adjustable lumbar support so that they can get the fit that is customised to the shape of their back. Adjustable arms to relieve shoulder stress, breathable high-tensile mesh backrest for comfort and an adjustable headrest for tall users are features that work together to make the user feel comfortable and properly supported at work.

For children, Ibrahim recommends “an adjustable footrest, an adjustable seat, and armrest. Footrests are important — especially for younger children who may not be tall enough for their feet to reach the floor when seated — because they help prevent the feet from dangling all day, which can cause unnecessary fatigue.”

He adds that armrests give kids more places to rest their limbs and a seat that can adjust up and down in height and lean back will also help kids sit properly and comfortably.

“Castors are recommended in a home set-up as they make it easy to move the chair and keep the proper distance from the screen that’s just right for you,” Ibrahim says. If your office has hard floors like tile, wood, use soft wheel castors. For carpeted floors, you should use the harder variety.

Second, adjust the desk at the right height. You will know that you have set proper positioning when you can type on the keyboard with your elbows bent at about 90 degrees. In case the desk height cannot be adjusted, you could also make sure that your feet are supported by the floor, or on a footrest. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle so you can relieve the pressure on your back.

Create enough storage space. A study corner for the child should offer plenty of options for storing stationery and books. Creating open rooms to display books, art, and other knick-knacks is a good option to keep the child interested in learning and other activities. Having deep drawers to accommodate separate notebooks and pencils will be an added benefit.

Backgrounds can play a massive role in video conferencing and online learning. Solid colour backgrounds are the easiest way to go but a beautiful artwork or a book shelf/library look great. According to 35-year-old Anindita Sarkar, a Bengaluru based corporate executive, “For me the coolest backdrop is that of an artwork as it breaks the monotony of work and speaks about one’s taste for finer things of life.

I recently got a hibiscus painting for my Zoom backdrop–just behind the laptop. We live in dull times and a work of art adds some excitement and colour.”

Lighting is important. The amount of light you need depends on a lot of things, including the floor area of your home office, the number of windows that permit natural light to pass through, the kind of work you will do there, and your work schedule. If your home office has windows, you might not have to buy a lot of ambient light fixtures. On the other hand, if your home study is cramped, overhead lighting or wall-mounted lamps could be the best option. But natural lighting is the best type for your study room and also has a positive impact on your mood. If you have a window in your room or dorm, try to position your desk near it.

Sound plays an important role too. Introduce materials that naturally absorb sound such as glass and wood (even surfaces like pin boards help). Says Sachin Rastogi, founding director and principal, ZED Lab: “When you have double glass with argon gas filling, it can totally cut down outside noise to inside and from inside to outside and also create a day-lit study. And then there are triple-glazed solutions for super acoustics. You can replace the traditional wood window with a glass one as it has more air tight envelope (and prevents air from outside which is the source of sound) or choose a thicker door or a waffle door which have an air cavity in between instead of traditional wooden doors. If you do too many videoconferencing calls, and need theatre-like acoustics, then introduce acoustic panels or fibres especially on ceiling or opposite the screen.

What’s available

There are brands such as Pepperfry, Transteel, Godrej Interio, Urban Ladder, IKEA, Wakefit, Hometown which have ready-to-use home-office furniture and accessories.

There is a rise in demand for ergonomic chairs, table lamps and décor knick-knacks at Pepperfry. Says Ankit Kakrania, Business Head-House brands, Pepperfry: “Study tables with cabinets are the best-sellers. We have bifurcated our study tables into three types–writing table, computer table and hutch desk. If you are looking for a table that offers sufficient desk space to place your laptop and few files, then we would suggest you opt for a writing table. Else, if you are looking for a table with storage to place your computer and store physical files, then go for a hutch desk. Additionally, we would suggest adding an ergonomic chair to the setup as it will prevent from back and posture problems in future.”

Script, a Godrej & Boyce venture, has experienced a growth of 35 per cent in the sale of accessories and 2X growth in the sale of WFH furniture. Says Rajat Mathur, Business Head, Script by Godrej & Boyce: “We see there is a greater need for purpose, ergonomics, and aesthetics in individual’s lives and this has been the inspiration for the Script’s new activity-based furniture and accessories such as SCRIPT ecosystems like Archipelago and Float that enable a fluid living experience.”

You also have interior designer consultants who help create the study room within your given budget. Take the case of Livspace which has worked at many residences. What is the minimum budget one must have for a WFH set up? Says Pallavi Goel, Studio Director, Livspace: “The cost of setting up a holistic workspace at home depends on three major aspects–- overall design, size of the space and quality of products used to set up this space. On a conservative side, a work-from-home set-up, including the basic equipment can cost Rs 12,000-15,000. But if you wish for more, budget for Rs 20,000-25,000 and for a more elaborate setup with a green space, a large monitor or TV to mirror the video calls or following the stock markets and a lounge chair for breaks, you may have to spend upwards of Rs 50,000. If budget is not a constraint, create an elaborate workspace with library and expansive bookshelves, footstool and a mini bar to help you relax.”

Finally, don’t make your couch your study. Make your work zone so attractive that you are drawn towards it to sit and start working. After all, WFH is all about self-motivation and creating the right ambience is the key.

Table: Indicative cost of setting up a WFH station

Study room Price range (Rs)
Study table 5,000-1.25 lakh
Seating/ergonomic chairs 5,000-60,000
Storage/book shelves/office cabinet 2,400-53,000
Technology (Wi-Fi, headphone/earphone, large monitor, projector interactive screen) 10,000-1.5 lakh
Lighting (table lamp, ceiling light) 5,000-50,000
Acoustics (acoustic panels cost 100-150 Rs/sq ft, double=glazed glass on windows and doors) 15,000-1 lakh
Décor (plants, photo frames, wall art) 2,500-2.5 lakh

Source: Market Research

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3 thoughts on “Tips on getting the ergonomics and aesthetics right for your WFH station

  1. Hi Admin! You are right the demand for ergonomic furniture has increased since the pandemic. When people started working from home then it was a big challenge to sit for long hours and many people realised after getting back and neck pain. It is very difficult to work while sitting on a couch or bed. An ergonomic office chair is with a decent office desk is a minimum requirement. The nature of work of different employees varies a lot and hence what they need to have in their home office furniture is also different. You shared a very helpful list with price here, thanks for sharing such beneficial information.

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