Returning to Work Post COVID 19: Ergonomic Commuting July 06 2021
With the pandemic hopefully coming to an end, everyone will slowly start heading back to the office. This means it's time to dust off your trusty commuter car and make the drive to the office every morning. While we regularly remind customers to maintain proper posture and typing positions while working in your workstation, we often overlook our ergonomic health while traveling to and from the office. It may be an afterthought but depending on your commute time or if you regularly drive for client meetings, you spend a considerable amount of time seated behind the wheel. Especially post pandemic, we aren’t used to the rush hour traffic that we avoided for over a year. In fact, the average American spends 3 hours a day in the car!
So, no matter how cognizant you are of ergonomics at work, you should be equally concerned about how driving may be negatively impacting your health. Remember, ergonomics is a lifestyle, not just a chair you buy!
Here are a few tips to make sure you’re taking the extra step by commuting safely and ergonomically.
1. Driver's Seat Adjustment
A properly configured driver’s seat is the first step before adjusting your mirrors or steering wheel.
- Backrest Angle: The back of your seat should not be too relaxed and laid back. It should also not be shoving your body up against the steering wheel. As a general rule, adjust the back of your seat so when you lean up against it, your shoulders are sitting just behind your hips. This usually occurs when the seat-back forms a 100° angle with the seat itself.
- Lumbar Adjustment: Some modern vehicles include a lumbar adjustment, which supports the natural curve in your spine. Similar to your ergonomic office chair, a lumbar support is a great feature to prevent back pain down the line. If your car does not feature a lumbar support, consider adding a cushion that can be attached to your seat. We carry ergonomic seat cushions that will work equally well in automotive applications than it does in the office scenario. A thinner cushion will be better in the driver's seat since it will not push you too far forward into the steering wheel. Here are a couple of our recommended seat cushions and lumbar supports:
- Seat Height: It is suggested that you raise your seat such that you have a wide and comfortable view of the road, but not so high that the seat interferes with circulation to the legs. Similar to your ergonomic office chair, a seat that is too high will cut circulation on the back of your thighs. Your legs should also not be touching the steering wheel.
- Leg Room: Ample leg room provides more comfort, but make sure that it does not impair your ability to react quickly on the road, as is the case with sudden braking. Your seat should be positioned far enough forward so you can fully depress the gas, brake, or clutch pedal (if applicable). This usually involves a position where your knees are bent slightly.
2. Mirrors and Steering Wheel
- After adjusting your driver’s seat, next it’s time to configure your mirrors and steering wheel position to match your new seating adjustment. Your side view and rear view mirrors should be adjusted so that you maintain a view of all objects outside of your peripheral view.
- Your side mirrors should be adjusted so that you can see the rear quarter panels (the metal above the rear wheels) of your car.
- Your rear view mirrors should be able to view the “top lip” of your trunk.
- The steering wheel should be adjusted so that you don’t have to reach and extend your arms to reach it. It should be at a nice neutral position.
3. Hands-Free Device
- Always keep your hands on the steering wheel. You should never be on the phone, texting, looking up directions, or using any type of device while driving.
- Consider investing in a mount for your smartphone so you can easily view directions or incoming calls without taking your hands off the steering wheel. This is one of our best-selling phone mounts we carry:
AutoExec Extended Phone Mount for Standard Smart Phones ($86.70)
- It's always a good habit to pull over if you need to send a text or change your navigation settings. AutoExec sells a desk attachment for your steering wheel for when you are parked. This is useful for working on the road when you need a flat surface to put your laptop and documents.
AutoExec WheelMate ($37)
- A hands free headset is useful for phone calls while on the road. It keeps your undivided attention on the road.
As with any activity in which one spends a long period of time sitting, it is important to take breaks. If you are stuck in traffic or on a long road trip, it is a good habit to pull over to the side of the road every two hours. Get out, and take a 5-minute stroll. Not only does this promote blood flow, but it can change your outlook on what might otherwise be a long and boring drive.
Making these minor adjustments to your daily commute takes just a few minutes but makes a major impact on your long-term ergonomic health!