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Working Remotely

Many of us have transitioned to working remotely. This means we are spending more time than ever away from the office conducting work in makeshift offices, such as, using a laptop at the kitchen table. While we are familiar with our home environment, there are certain aspects that we should look out for to make it more conducive for work. The information and tips on this page will provide you with best practices and available resources for working safely and ergonomically in your home.

If you have any EHS related concerns or questions about working remotely, please contact environment@mit.edu or call 617-452-3477.

For Lincoln Lab employees, please contact LL EHS, safety@ll.mit.edu or call 781-981-0963.

Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work Web Course

The Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work web course is available to the MIT community. This course provides best practices and guidance around ergonomics, safety hazards, and your wellbeing. In addition, the course contains a risk assessment for you to complete about your current work environment. As a result, based on the assessment, you will be provided with an action plan to address ergonomic concerns.

Safety

While home is not our usual workplace, the principles of safety are even more important. Use the guidance below to address common safety hazards.

  • Set up your “desk” near an electrical outlet that is not overloaded.
  • Check that your multi-outlet strip or extension cord has a 3-prong plug and the UL or Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories
  • Do not overload extension cords, multi-outlet strips or wall outlets.
  • Use extension cords with 3-prong plugs to ensure the equipment is grounded. Never remove the grounding post from a 3-prong plug.
  • Run all cords so they are not near your feet to prevent tripping. Use tape, rubber bands, etc. to keep the excess length out of your way.
  • Choose a foot rest which can be quickly pushed under the “desk” so as to avoid a trip hazard when standing up.

Be mindful of good fire safety principles when charging your devices. Charge your laptop and mobile devices on a hard-flat surface like a table or desk. There is a potential fire hazard associated with charging devices on beds, couches, carpets, etc.

If your DLC provided you with a laptop or power cord and it is overheating or damaged, unplug the power cord immediately and contact your DLC IS&T/manager. If laptops/equipment not owned by MIT that were acquired through personal purchases is overheating or damaged, contact the vendor you purchased the item from.

Report Incidents

EHS still requires work-related injuries to be recorded for the Institute’s OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. The requirements for reporting work-related injuries are the same for employees working remotely as for those few who are still on campus. Any injuries related to work must be reported to your supervisor immediately after you receive any necessary medical attention. Your supervisor will need to submit an injury report within 24 hours. Injuries should be reported immediately, with or without medical treatment.  More information can be found on the EHS COVID-19 FAQ.

Ergonomics for Laptop & Hand-Held Devices

Below are tips for using a laptop or hand-held device as your primary computer set-up. See Ergonomics for desktop guidance and additional resources.

Using a Laptop

Additional Resources for Laptop Users

Using a Hand-Held Device

Compact user-interfaces keep the devices small, but they also encourage fixed hand and neck postures as well as rapid repetitive thumb movement. When using your hand-held device:

  • Avoid using the device for more than 5 to 10 minutes at a time, and stretch and massage your hands during rests to encourage circulation
  • Write short messages: be concise, use abbreviations, enable word completion/prediction features
  • Respond to non-critical messages after you have returned to your computer, or rest your fingers by responding to messages with a phone call
  • Give your thumbs a rest by using other fingers for tasks like pressing controls and buttons, and navigating
  • To avoid neck strain, try to keep your head balanced neutrally over your shoulders
  • When possible, try to support your arms (e.g. on a desk, countertop, or pillows)
  • If you need to use your device for over an hour or two, attach an external keyboard if possible

Ergonomic Consultation & Evaluation

The EHS Ergonomic Team provides consultation, via email or telephone, for those looking for some quick tips on workstation setups. If you have questions about your risk assessment from the Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work you may also consult with the team to validate you’ve implemented the action plan appropriately.  Contact ehs-ergo@mit.edu for a consultation.

If you would like an evaluation after reading and applying the information above and on the Ergonomics page and completing the Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work course, you can submit a request via the EHS Ergonomic Evaluation website.  A member of the Ergonomics Team will reach out to you within a few business days.

During the current state of remote work at home, evaluations can be conducted virtually for remote work at home setups as much as possible. To conduct the evaluation the requestor must have a video camera so staff can see the setup. An alternative if you do not have the capability to video chat, the evaluator may request a photo of your workstation.

Request an Ergonomic Evaluation

Monitoring Your Own Health

 It is important to continue monitoring your own health while working away from MIT.  Refer to the MIT Medical Department COVID-19 Updates and the MIT Human Resources’ Community Support Resources for the most up to date information.

Community Wellness @ MIT Medical: Live Better in Your Body (at-home video)

Nancy Bellantoni, Live Better in Your Body instructor, has created an at-home video you can watch and follow along to at your convenience. Release tension using roller balls and blocks (or books and tennis balls). Learn more.

MIT Recreation Stretch Break Resources

Additional Resources

 

Many of us have transitioned to working remotely. This means we are spending more time than ever away from the office conducting work in makeshift offices, such as, using a laptop at the kitchen table. While we are familiar with our home environment, there are certain aspects that we should look out for to make it more conducive for work. The information and tips on this page will provide you with best practices and available resources for working safely and ergonomically in your home.

If you have any EHS related concerns or questions about working remotely, please contact environment@mit.edu or call 617-452-3477.

For Lincoln Lab employees, please contact LL EHS, safety@ll.mit.edu or call 781-981-0963.

Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work Web Course

The Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work web course is available to the MIT community. This course provides best practices and guidance around ergonomics, safety hazards, and your wellbeing. In addition, the course contains a risk assessment for you to complete about your current work environment. As a result, based on the assessment, you will be provided with an action plan to address ergonomic concerns.

Safety

While home is not our usual workplace, the principles of safety are even more important. Use the guidance below to address common safety hazards.

  • Set up your “desk” near an electrical outlet that is not overloaded.
  • Check that your multi-outlet strip or extension cord has a 3-prong plug and the UL or Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories
  • Do not overload extension cords, multi-outlet strips or wall outlets.
  • Use extension cords with 3-prong plugs to ensure the equipment is grounded. Never remove the grounding post from a 3-prong plug.
  • Run all cords so they are not near your feet to prevent tripping. Use tape, rubber bands, etc. to keep the excess length out of your way.
  • Choose a foot rest which can be quickly pushed under the “desk” so as to avoid a trip hazard when standing up.

Be mindful of good fire safety principles when charging your devices. Charge your laptop and mobile devices on a hard-flat surface like a table or desk. There is a potential fire hazard associated with charging devices on beds, couches, carpets, etc.

If your DLC provided you with a laptop or power cord and it is overheating or damaged, unplug the power cord immediately and contact your DLC IS&T/manager. If laptops/equipment not owned by MIT that were acquired through personal purchases is overheating or damaged, contact the vendor you purchased the item from.

Report Incidents

EHS still requires work-related injuries to be recorded for the Institute’s OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. The requirements for reporting work-related injuries are the same for employees working remotely as for those few who are still on campus. Any injuries related to work must be reported to your supervisor immediately after you receive any necessary medical attention. Your supervisor will need to submit an injury report within 24 hours. Injuries should be reported immediately, with or without medical treatment.  More information can be found on the EHS COVID-19 FAQ.

Ergonomics for Laptop & Hand-Held Devices

Below are tips for using a laptop or hand-held device as your primary computer set-up. See Ergonomics for desktop guidance and additional resources.

Using a Laptop

Additional Resources for Laptop Users

Using a Hand-Held Device

Compact user-interfaces keep the devices small, but they also encourage fixed hand and neck postures as well as rapid repetitive thumb movement. When using your hand-held device:

  • Avoid using the device for more than 5 to 10 minutes at a time, and stretch and massage your hands during rests to encourage circulation
  • Write short messages: be concise, use abbreviations, enable word completion/prediction features
  • Respond to non-critical messages after you have returned to your computer, or rest your fingers by responding to messages with a phone call
  • Give your thumbs a rest by using other fingers for tasks like pressing controls and buttons, and navigating
  • To avoid neck strain, try to keep your head balanced neutrally over your shoulders
  • When possible, try to support your arms (e.g. on a desk, countertop, or pillows)
  • If you need to use your device for over an hour or two, attach an external keyboard if possible

Ergonomic Consultation & Evaluation

The EHS Ergonomic Team provides consultation, via email or telephone, for those looking for some quick tips on workstation setups. If you have questions about your risk assessment from the Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work you may also consult with the team to validate you’ve implemented the action plan appropriately.  Contact ehs-ergo@mit.edu for a consultation.

If you would like an evaluation after reading and applying the information above and on the Ergonomics page and completing the Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work course, you can submit a request via the EHS Ergonomic Evaluation website.  A member of the Ergonomics Team will reach out to you within a few business days.

During the current state of remote work at home, evaluations can be conducted virtually for remote work at home setups as much as possible. To conduct the evaluation the requestor must have a video camera so staff can see the setup. An alternative if you do not have the capability to video chat, the evaluator may request a photo of your workstation.

Request an Ergonomic Evaluation

Monitoring Your Own Health

 It is important to continue monitoring your own health while working away from MIT.  Refer to the MIT Medical Department COVID-19 Updates and the MIT Human Resources’ Community Support Resources for the most up to date information.

Community Wellness @ MIT Medical: Live Better in Your Body (at-home video)

Nancy Bellantoni, Live Better in Your Body instructor, has created an at-home video you can watch and follow along to at your convenience. Release tension using roller balls and blocks (or books and tennis balls). Learn more.

MIT Recreation Stretch Break Resources

Additional Resources