Prolonged time working in this kind of set-up can lead to physical problems such as muscle and joint stiffness, pain and headaches and doing this in a confined space at home can also compound things and increase lethargy, frustration and (in more extreme examples) increased feelings of depression and anxiety – especially with more reduced social contact than usual. So… WHAT CAN YOU DO?
“The reality of working from home is that the environment is rarely set up to accommodate those prolonged hours of computer/desk-based work that we need to do.”
Darren Higgins – Practice Principal
Work set up
It can be really hard to completely stop work just to do some exercises, especially when you’re focused on your work. So, optimisation of your home set-up is essential:
- Chair position and height – this is particularly important if spending most of your time sitting and should be done first. Adjust the height of your chair so that you can reach the floor with your feet but still be able to rest your forearms comfortably on the desk/table. A foot stool (or anything that would double as one) can be used to elevate the feet for those who can’t reach the floor and desk at the same time. If you are unable to adjust the height of the chair, sit on a pillow or cushion to effect the same result.A chair with lumbar (lower back) support is important in maintaining good alignment of the whole spine because if you slouch too much, it has a knock-on effect to the mid back and neck.
If your chair doesn’t have lumbar support you can improvise. A Mckenzie roll is great for this but a rolled up towel, small pillow or cushion will have a similar effect.
- Screen position – The ideal screen height is such that when you look straight ahead, you should be able to see the top of the screen. The bulk of the display should be just below eye height when in a comfortable sitting/standing position. If using a laptop, the device should be elevated on top of books or other objects to optimise position of the screen (this is where the separate keyboard and mouse arrangement is needed).
- Separate mouse and keyboard – if you’re working from a laptop, the track pad may contribute to wrist and upper limb, neck and shoulder aches and pains by contributing to a poor sitting posture. Using a separate keyboard and mouse will allow you to maintain your forearms in a better position, resting on the desk/table surface and not too close to you.
- Changing position – A change can be as good as a rest! Going from sitting to standing (or vice versa) with the same key points from above being followed can allow you to work with less discomfort building over time. When sitting your hips are flexed, increasing strain on certain parts of the lower spine and this can be relieved standing. However, other parts will be loaded more in standing, so it is a good idea to rotate between the two positions throughout the day.
Here is a pictorial representation of the recommended seated working posture.