“We Aren’t
All Going to
Be the Same”
From standing desks to an
extra monitor, tips for keeping
your workplace comfortable
From standing desks to an extra monitor, tips for keeping your workplace comfortable
By Samantha Davenport
Elisa Hitchcock of Gray Services LLC recommends using a separate keyboard and mouse from your laptop, if possible, to prevent strain and neck pain.

Photo courtesy of Gray Services LLC


ecause many Alaskans have modified their lives to working from home during the pandemic, Elisa Hitchcock of Gray Services LLC says workstations have changed like never before.

“There have been times throughout the past year where people go between work and home. It is quite difficult because you end up with two workstations, or, you end up carrying your work things back and forth,” says Hitchcock. “(Now) so many people are in a home setting, doing the work that they used to do in the privacy and comfort of an office, where we weren’t interrupted fifteen times a day.”

Hitchcock’s background is in the private rehab business, where she became a certified disability management specialist, meaning she can evaluate, review, and figure out what can be done for injured workers. She currently does contract work, providing ergonomic evaluations, reports, research, and recommendations for clients.

“We aren’t cookie cutters,” she says. “We aren’t all going to be the same.”

Small Changes Can Prevent Larger Problems
The US Centers for Disease Control refers to the goal of ergonomics as preventing “soft-tissue injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) caused by sudden or sustained exposure to force, vibration, repetitive motion and awkward posture.”

As an investigator with the Alaska State Troopers, Andrea Jacobson spends long hours at her computer. She can’t work from home because she uses proprietary databases for her job.

“I was constantly hunched over looking at these monitors,” says Jacobson. “I had been doing that for so long that didn’t strike me as being the cause of this bad neck pain.”

Jacobson decided to contact Hitchcock, a longtime friend, to provide her with an evaluation several years ago. She also provided Jacobson’s husband with an ergonomic solution: a stand for his Kindle that raises the height of the device to eye-level.

“He’s in a much more comfortable position,” says Jacobson. “He hasn’t complained since and uses that thing every day.”

“Even though [my monitors] were different heights, I didn’t realize they could cause my problems,” Jacobson adds. “I raised them up. One of them is on a book—but it’s a good book, it’s a law book. The other one is on the desk but they are both raised at eye-level. I don’t think it was more than two days that my neck stopped hurting—and it hasn’t hurt since.”

Hitchcock says most people need to raise their monitors instead of looking down at their screens, and many who work from home aren’t aware of why they shouldn’t work at the kitchen table if they can avoid it. Gray Services LLC does online “ergo evals” – with half-hour appointments over video chat to observe and report on their workstation.

“Many employers are very willing and very happy to modify and make it work,” says Hitchcock. “There are some lovely ergonomic items out there: the standup desk, the second monitor. Get your laptop off the table and put it on a riser, so you’re using your laptop as the monitor but using a separate ergonomic keyboard and mouse.”

Hitchcock recommends having a separate mouse and keyboard from your laptop, if possible, and make your chair as comfortable as possible.

“If you need something to get your feet up off the ground where you’re sitting in a kitchen chair—first of all, get a good chair,” says Hitchcock. “If you can’t, get a cushion for your chair. Get a cushion for your back and figure out what it is that’s bugging you about that, and make the modifications you can without any extra expense or minimal expense.”

Samantha Davenport is a freelance writer who lives in Anchorage.