Working from Home – What ROSA can teach us

Taking a ZOOM call with your kids having a home-schooling meltdown, or the dog making an appearance to ask for dinner used to be one of the simple charms of working from home – but with the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us find ourselves living this reality every hour of our workday. When you are rapidly forced to change working environments, some of the productivity tools we have become so used to now are no longer available – and this includes our ergonomic chairs, mice, and keyboards. Lots of highly qualified ergonomists have written great posts about how to set up your office at home – plugging in keyboards and mice, while putting your laptop on a riser to keep your neck from being too flexed.  What happens when you don’t have access to secondary monitors, a mouse, or a keyboard? Using the Rapid Office Strain Assessment (ROSA), I tried to see what the best possible work from home (WFH) office configuration was for those who might not have access to dedicated equipment.  

A bit about ROSA 

For those of you that are not familiar with the Rapid Office Strain Assessment, ROSA is a self-guided office ergonomics assessment tool, which helps provide a score indicating the overall level of risk an office contains related to possible discomfort. ROSA has been put through its paces in the scientific community, with over 150 citations on Google Scholar. ROSA’s scoring system lets us instantly capture a risk level of an office – but also lets us easily compare any two offices to see how they might be beneficial or detrimental to a worker. In this experiment, we relied on the ROSA final and domain scores to capture risk to the overall office, as well as the chair, monitor, telephone, mouse, and keyboard. 


To examine some common work from home situations, 11 MyAbilities employees completed ROSA assessments while they were working in the dedicated home office, sitting on their couch, their bed, and at their kitchen or dining room table. We all assumed for the assessment that we had the same duration working in each of the four configurations, so the ROSA scores were primarily coming from the risk factors related to set up and not duration. 

In each of the four set ups, the ROSA final score was calculated using our online software, along with the chair, monitor and telephone, and mouse and keyboard domain scores.  

Average ROSA Final and Domain Scores by WFH configuration
ROSA Scores by Domain and WFH configuration

Not surprisingly, the home office score was the best for all of our workers – with a ROSA score of 3.5. Back to our original ROSA experiment, a ROSA final score of 5 is the threshold for increased risk of discomfort. If we were to rank the other offices based on risk, the dining room table (average score of 5.5) was second best, followed by the couch (6.2), and bed (7.1). Looking further into these numbers, you can see that a lot of this risk is coming from elevated ROSA scores in the chair section – not only are the couch, dining room table, and bed not adjustable, they very rarely have any form of lumbar support, have seat pans that are not of the appropriate distance, and don’t allow workers to have their back, knee, or hips in the appropriate position.  

When we look at the other components of the workstation, you can see mouse and keyboard are likely the next biggest culprit for discomfort – using your laptop on your lap typically causes your wrists to be extended and deviated to the sides. Getting the computer off of your lap and on to a table that lets you work while your shoulders can stay relaxed is a good ergonomic boost.  

The relative risk levels do increase from the optimal home office situation, but as we can see here – if you don’t have access to any sort of dedicated ergonomic equipment – the dining room table is likely your best bet for a temporary ergonomic workstation.  

Something to note here though – when we did our experiment, two of our highest scores actually came from the dining room configuration – and this is when our workers were at a kitchen island, or a bar height table. In that situation, we see very high scores coming from the high seating – not allowing for proper foot support on the floor, and even less back support than a normal chair would provide. If that’s your working situation in your home, you might be better to look at different options.   

Relative risk for different WFH configurations compared to home office set up


As we get settled into our home offices for the foreseeable future, most people are having to use what they currently have laying around their houses to get working. With our findings, we are recommending that you work at your dining room table instead of your couch or in your bed, at least until you can get make the changes necessary to set up your home office to more resemble your regular office. Above all else – if you are having to work on your laptop for a long time – moving around and changing your posture is your most important step.    

Other References for Work from Home Ergonomics

Dr. Michael Sonne, PhD, CCPE
Dr. Michael Sonne, PhD, CCPE

Mike is the creator of the Rapid Office Strain Assessment, or ROSA, which is being taught at numerous universities around the globe.

Home Office

Working from Home – Office Ergonomics to help mind & body

With the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us are finding ourselves working from home for the first time. I’ve read a lot of great posts about how to get the most of out of your office ergonomics to help prevent pain and discomfort, so I won’t be covering that all here again – instead, I’d like to talk about the things you can do in your home office (or as you might know it, your couch, dining table, kitchen island, or spare bedroom) to get the most out of your workday. 

Physical Ergonomics while working from home 

Lots of great tips are floating around the internet on how you should set up a home office, so I won’t spend much time doing that here. At the end of the day, many of us didn’t have much time to prepare for this big change in our working life – so the chances of running out to the store to grab a spare monitor and keyboard are pretty limited. 

That being said, do what you can to get yourself in a good posture – and if you can’t, moving around your home office can be a big help. Sitting on the couch with your laptop on your lap, and your neck constantly bent down is a recipe for neck pain – but if you mix that in with sitting at the kitchen table, standing at the counter, or other mixed postures – you can introduce the kind of movement that helps keep you comfortable.  

Distancing your Home Office from your living space 

This has its challenges for those of us working in apartments or smaller areas – but try to set up a work area or home office space in your house. When you work all day where you relax all night, it’s tough to get that mental distance between when your brain is “on” and you’re now trying to watch some Netflix. If you can’t do that physically, try to set up your schedule where you get dressed into working clothes for your work day, and change into your more casual attire once you’ve finished your job. 

Give yourself a break 

Take a break
Photo by The Lazy Artist Gallery from Pexels

We have entered a time that none of us have ever been prepared for – the world is changing at a pace we have never seen, and there’s news coming out every 15 minutes that shakes your core. Give yourself a chance to adapt to the new normal and don’t beat yourself up over writing less words per minute, making fewer connections with prospects, or making a mistake in your spreadsheet. You need to give yourself the mental space to adjust and berating yourself (or your co-workers) won’t help. We’re all in this together, and it starts with taking care of yourself! 

Now when it comes to taking a break, a change of scenery can help you mentally and physically. Instead of checking the latest news sites, go for a short walk, take a stretch break, or get some exercise.  Get out of that home office and refresh your mind.

Rely on the tools at your disposal 

Both Android and iOS operating systems have tools for managing your working hours to minimize distractions when your day is done. Using these will help you disconnect and allow you to manage stress levels better.  

None of this is gospel, and much like anyone reading this – we’re all trying to figure things out as we go! Take care of yourself, help those who need help, and we’ll be back to gathering around the water cooler in no time. 

 Learn more about office ergonomics in my earlier article here.

Dr. Michael Sonne, PhD, CCPE
Dr. Michael Sonne, PhD, CCPE

Mike is the creator of the Rapid Office Strain Assessment, or ROSA, which is being taught at numerous universities around the globe.

Improve Office Ergonomics

Office ergonomics can improve (or hurt) well-being

Did you know that over 60% of office workers are feeling discomfort? Or that musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s) account for a third of workers’ compensation claims? Improving office ergonomics is quickly becoming a necessity.

This inspired the creation of the Rapid Office Strain Assessment, or ROSA. This online tool guides users through an office ergonomic self-assessment. ROSA provides immediate recommendations on adjustments that will reduce their risk of discomfort and eventually injury.

ROSA has been around for a few years and is a science-based process that has been peer-reviewed. For example, there are over 170 citations around the globe of the original paper. The methodology is now being taught at several universities. It has also been translated into several languages.

Development and evaluation of office ergonomic risk

Cited over 170 times, this paper demonstrates ROSA’s efficacy.

Actual Results in the Office

There are also real-world examples of how ROSA has improved office ergonomics with tangible results. In fact, a Top 20 globally ranked university has been using ROSA for their office ergonomics program for a few years.

As a result, 87% of their users were able to make meaningful changes to their workstations. Discomfort levels have steadily dropped, reducing the risk of discomfort or MSD’s by ~20%.

In another example, Hamilton Health Sciences achieved similar results. In a one year time period, they completed 431 assessments and noted a decrease of ~45% in computer workstation MSDs.

As a result, Lisa Gilmour, Manager Health, Safety & Wellness Initiatives said, “The results provided meaningful change and helped improve the wellness of our colleagues.”

The Impact of Office Ergonomics

Each MSD incident can cost thousands of dollars. These are meaningful results that can improve the well-being of your employees and their productivity. So your business saves money and increases productivity.

To learn more about ROSA, click here, or contact MyAbilities here.

Dr. Michael Sonne, PhD, CCPE
Dr. Michael Sonne, PhD, CCPE

Mike is the creator of the Rapid Office Strain Assessment, or ROSA, which is being taught at numerous universities around the globe.

Automated risk assessments from Functional Job Descriptions – using PDAi and the Demand Score to look at risk in your workplace

Written by Mike Sonne, PhD, CCPE

Typically – a physical demands description, or a function job description, has served as a cookbook – a recipe to determine the ingredients required to complete a job, but nothing like a food critique that would tell you if that job was good or bad. If someone needed to do a risk assessment of a job, a separate analysis would occur, and depending on how that assessment was completed, a third analysis might be required to dive deeper into the risks associated with a job. Using the JOBX system featuring PDAi to complete your functional job descriptions can automate this process, allowing you to quickly determine which of your jobs might have the highest risks, then measure the impact of your changes. Here’s an example of how that is accomplished.


Research Review: Is physical capacity associated with the occurrence of musculoskeletal symptoms among office workers?

Injury occurs when the demands of a job exceed the capacity of a worker. Primarily, the capacity of a worker is focused on the physical strength that they possess – how much muscle force can be generated by the muscles of the lower back, shoulder, etc. However, other factors inherent to the job can also reduce the worker’s physical capacity – including the mental capacity of the worker. In assessing the ergonomics of a workplace, both the mental, and the physical demands must be assessed to determine the true risk of injury that a job inherently has.


The DOL Strength Levels – does oversimplifying job demands increase exposure to injury risk?

Written by: Mike Sonne, PhD, CCPE

Summary: The DOL strength levels classify jobs into 5 separate categories defined by force/weight, and frequency of exertion. The classification system leads to a broad oversimplification of the demands of work, which in the worst case can lead to over and under estimates of physical demands of over 500%. A much more granular system is needed to better understand the different physical demands of work, and how that  can be used in return to work, and injury prevention.


MyAbilities Technical Training Sessions

Are you new to the MyAbilities platform, or curious as to how you can create your own Digital Job Profile Database? Join the MyAbilities Technical Webinar, hosted weekly on Wednesdays from 1:30 to 3:00 pm.

Register below:



Claim and Medical Management in MyAbilities

Written by Jacob Lazarovic, MD, FAAFP, MyAbilities Chief Medical Officer

MyAbilities is an innovative new integrated platform which, at its core, offers employers an opportunity to create a database of comprehensive,objective digital job profiles (DJPs) describing the functional characteristics of every job type at their company. This offers an employer key benefits including more efficient hiring and training practices, ergonomic improvements aimed at mitigating higher-risk physical demands, and a wide array of preventive and fitness applications, designed to “harden” employees’ capacity to better sustain their current job activities without injury . This product allows employers to better manage their valuable human resources, and to do so using state-of-the -art technologies such as video kinematics and artificial intelligence.


Unlocking the potential of your Physical Demands Descriptions

Welcome to MyAbilities! My name is Mike Sonne, and I am the Vice President of Innovations and Research. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of MyAbilities, and develop new, well-researched ergonomics tools, that will make workers lives better.

I have worked in ergonomics for the past 10 years, where I completed doctoral research on automotive manufacturing ergonomics, and a masters thesis on developing developed the Rapid Office Strain Assessment. After nearly 2 years of engineering, the MyAbilities team is excited to be bringing you our platform’s first offering – the digital job profiling and physical demands analysis tool. Every ergonomist probably started their career conducting physical demands analyses – the process of meticulously detailing every demand of a job. With a good PDA database, your company builds up a cook book of the physical requirements needed to perform the individual recipes of jobs in your organization.


Press Release: MyAbilities and Your Ergonomics Program

MyAbilities, a proud to supporter of ACE in transforming Ergonomics through Artificial Intelligence, empowering Ergonomists with technology to help build their business while supporting their clients.

 MyAbilities introduces new powerful automated software platform for conducting physical demands analysis, performing ergonomics assessments for the delivery of effective injury prevention and return to work solutions—reducing the incidence and severity of workplace injuries.

 TORONTO/ONTARIO (April 17, 2018) – Utilizing the latest in artificial intelligence, ergonomics research and the largest database of job profiles in the industry. MyAbilities is providing ergonomists and employers with a platform to create, manage, maintain and communicate their unique job profiles, while providing employees with the ability to self-assess their individual work environment, identify and minimize the risk of job injury — resulting in reduced occupational injuries, expedited return to work and ergonomically sound workplaces and lower claim costs. MyAbilities’ fully integrated platform features a unique database with over 32,000 job profiles containing precise job-demand data and analytics. Embedded videos show a task being performed and the job demands placed on a person’s body.