Guide to Home Ergonomics

Improve the liveability of your home with these ergonomic principles and tips.

Updated on June 12, 2017 11:06 am

Xiangyun Lim & Michelle Ong

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Ergonomics isn’t just limited to office work or computers. Essentially the science of designing the task to fit our physical bodies rather than the other way around, ergonomics principles can actually be applied to every activity and task―and especially at home. As the place for rest, recreation, and raising a family, it is important to reduce the output of redundant energy through good design and planning.

Start by doing a quick sweep of your home to determine if it is an environment optimised for easy use, safety, and comfort for your activities. This applies to even more minute details such as the lighting warmth and location, the temperature in your bedroom, and the height of tables, cabinets, and sinks. Think about the needs of your family: Do you have children and elderly? What are the activities often done at home? Is your home catered for these needs and activities?

It may not be easy to cover every detail, and needs and activities will also change over time. Once you get into the habit of paying attention to the interaction between our daily activities and the environment, however, it becomes a natural process to make necessary changes for better living at home.

Here are some tips for you to start:

Applying Ergonomics At Home

In the Living Room:

  • Consider frequent activities your family engage in. For example, television lovers should invest in a comfortable sofa that has adequate support, and ensure the line of sight is aligned to the height of the television.
  • If you do work in the living room, or arts and crafts with your children, make sure you have well-lit places.
  • Use portable/desk lights to fill in inadequately lit areas.

In the Kitchen:

  • The three main sites of activity in the kitchen would be the stove/oven, the refrigerator, the sink/preparation site. Minimise the distance between them for an efficient work flow, but not too much so that it becomes cramped.
  • A good height for the kitchen cabinet is about 80cm, and the ideal height and depth of the toe kick (the recess at the bottom of a base cabinet) is 8cm x 6.5cm.

In the Bedroom:

  • Ensure the best quality of sleep with the right mattress and pillow.
  • It is ideal to have digital screens far away from your bed. That includes the television, phone docks, and even digital clocks.
  • Keep your bedside table close enough for you to easily reach it without stretching too much.
  • Curtains and blackouts can help to keep the room quiet and dark.
  • White noise from fans and coolers can also help mask surrounding noise.

For Children:

Applying ergonomic principles for children is especially important not just for optimal physical and spinal development, but also to instil lasting good posture habits.

  • Pick the right mattress and bed for deep, quality sleep integral to development and growth.
  • Invest in a backpack that is ergonomically-designed to reduce the stress and pressure of carrying heavy loads. Look out for one that is lightweight, employs a backcare system that distributes downward force, and encourages dual shoulder carrying.
  • Internal book traps will also help prevent the counter force of books falling back, holding them in vertical position and closer to the child’s back.
  • An ergonomic table is worth looking at especially if you have more than one child, as the adjustable height and angle can cater even through their growing years.
  • Different tasks require different tabletop angles. For example, reading would need a wider angle to bring the material up to eye level, whereas writing would be done on a lower tabletop adjusted at a narrower angle.
  • When using technological products, remind your child to take posture and screen breaks every 20 to 30 minutes.

Products We Recommend:

Kettler Basic Comfort Desk, $599 (U.P. $999), Jarrons & Co

Not only does this desk have multiple height adjustment settings and levels, the tabletop is also split into fixed and adjustable tops for a healthy posture (can be assembled on the left or right for left and right handers). Comes in three colours.

Mighty Pack School Bag, $189, Buddy Pte Ltd

This award-winning ergonomic school bags incorporates a back system of safety and convenience for a child, as well as a load-bearing system to reduce stress and injury from heavy loads. Gold Winner of the Singapore Design Awards 2011 (Product/Industrial).

Dualinder Ai, $899, Ergoworks

It’s not just you who is spending lots of time on the chair―your child does, too! The Dualinder Ai is designed to encourage good sitting posture and improve concentration and efficiency amongst kids aged four years and above. Features include adjustable backrest to accommodate the child’s growth and chair locks that ensure your child isn’t distracted when studying.

For the Home Office:

Ergonomics in home offices significantly impacts your productivity and comfort whilst preventing injury.

  • Make sure your desks are not too shallow―800mm is a good guide.
  • If space constraints are an issue, invest in a forearm support to reduce the cutting force of the table on your forearms.
  • Height also matters―the ideal desk should have room for your legs to move around and allow your arms to rest comfortably on it.
  • A quality chair that supports your back reduces stress on your back and spine. Look into investing into an ergonomic chair that fits your body size and shape.
  • Invest in small little things like a laptop holder to elevate the laptop (eyesight at the right height and distance, no neck strain), and also an external keyboard.
  • Proper lighting reduces eye strain and headaches. If natural lighting is insufficient, make sure you have a quality desk lamp.

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Look out for these in your chair:

Lumbar support: Our backs are slightly curved inward, which requires a backrest that is not directly vertical. An ergonomics chair can also integrate adjustable 3D dual backrests that support all directional movements of your back.
Backrest: For the best support, the backrest should have a width just slightly bigger than your body, and should not restrict shoulder movement.
Seat: When seated, you should have a three to four fingers space between the edge of the chair to your knee, Marketing Director Joseph Tan from ErgoWorks advises.
Arm rests: These should be low enough to allow your shoulders to stay relaxed when your arms are placed on them.
Adjustability: It is ideal to have a chair that allows the adjustment of the seat and backrest.

Products We Recommend:

Duorest DR-910, $139 (U.P. $169), Ergoworks

This portable back support is a quick solution to add ergonomic principles to existing chairs.

Lady Collection Ergonomic Chair, $799, Ergoworks

Did you know that ergonomic chairs come in a range of sizes for different bodies and functions? This one is for the ladies and uses a German patented back-care system. Its alien-like appearance belittles its comfort level and quality.

Boris Highback office chair, $229 (U.P. $267.83), Comfort Furniture

With adjustable armrests and headrest that come with multi-angle lock and even a jacket hanger, this chair comes with synchro mechanism that allows the backrest to tilt and move relative to the seat in a fixed 2:1 ratio. This function allows a change in the back/thigh angle when tilting backwards in the chair, and allows for better blood circulation in the lumbar region, thereby reducing muscular stress in the lower back.

Laptop/IPad Stand, $90, FAM Solutions

This lightweight aluminium stand is height-adjustable and allows you to mount your laptop or iPad in both portrait or landscape mode. Available in five colours.

Steppie, $199, ErgoWorks

The perfect accompaniment for your standing desk, this Steppie allows one to rock comfortably whilst standing, which improves blood circulation and reduces pressure on your back. Made in Denmark.

Cover photo by Xiangyun Lim (Alexa)


If you have any tips and/or experiences to share about ergonomics, share it with us at hello@cromly.com!

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