The Safer Choice

A very personal homeworker DSE case study

First published online January 2021

Clean up your own backyard

“Physician, heal thyself.” Or, in this case, some-time ergonomist, deal with the ergonomic issues in your own house.

Lockdown of course led to lots of us working from home. I already had my own office at home, and my husband had built his own man-cave inside the garage. Eldest son commandeered the upstairs spare room as his office. Which left youngest son, Matthew, just starting his degree-apprenticeship in Digital and Technology solutions, working in his bedroom.

Matthew’s desk was, to be honest, a bodge. It was a dressing table top, where some of the drawers had been removed so he could get his legs underneath. As you can see, it was barely deep enough for a laptop, and adding a keyboard made the problem worse rather than better (look at those elbows). There wasn’t enough space for a laptop stand. Even replacing that dining room chair with something adjustable wasn’t going to fix the problem. 

No such thing as a free desk?

We were spurred into action by the generous offer of an adjustable and foldaway HomeFit desk from Guy Osmond of Osmond Ergonomics.

I wasn’t sure it would really work in the limited space Matthew had. In the first picture, you can see the corner of his bed at the bottom of the photo, and there are no blank walls against which the new desk could sit. We looked around the house for a suitable spare wall, but nothing – sofas, tables, a piano, existing desks, bookshelves, storage units of all types covered every wall that didn’t have a radiator, a window or a door in it. But when I showed Matthew a video  of the desk he was so excited with the idea of a height adjustable desk, that he put his thinking hat on. The desk was ordered, and on Christmas Day Matthew unwrapped it (well, removed the ribbon and the label I’d attached).
With Tier 4, there were no parties or social gatherings between Christmas and New Year. Instead, Matthew worked away industriously at his project to fit what felt to me like getting a litre into a pint pot.

He removed the existing dressing table top. He measured it up carefully, and cut along its length to make a narrower shelf. He removed another of the cupboard units, and with the help of his dad, reorganised the electrics.

Then he assembled the Homefit desk, and rearranged his computer equipment – and the other ‘toys’ he’d opened on Christmas Day. He even cleared the carpet and vacuumed.

Matthew opening his Homefit desk on Christmas Day

The result

The result – a larger surface that has enough space for his laptop and his music equipment when it’s packed away, as well as providing an adjustable height workstation when he’s working – and when he’s being creative. The colour match was amazing – the light oak fitted in perfectly with the existing units.

I’m thinking of handing over my ergonomist badge to my son.

With many thanks to Guy Osmond and the team at Osmond Ergonomics for getting the desk to us by Christmas, and to Matthew for his hard work, and his patience.