Few of us will have been prepared for working from home, and if you’re anything like me, you will have cobbled together a work station. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have started to notice the toll it is taking on your neck, shoulders and back.
Working from home is likely to continue for a little while. To help with these challenges, it’s worth investing some time in improving your ergonomics.
So, what can you do? Here are a few tips for you to try:
Take regular breaks
Having a break is as valuable for your body as it is for your productivity. It doesn’t have to be a long break, it doesn’t have to be a tea or coffee break, but simply standing up, walking around the room and having a stretch will make a difference. If you’re on a mobile phone while taking a call, then take the opportunity to get up and move around. Ideally, you should get up every 30 min or an absolute maximum of an hour. Why not set a timer to give you a nudge to get up.
Stretching feels so good. A lot of pain, stiffness and headaches are due to muscle fatigue, misuse or overuse. Taking time to build in a simple stretch routine can help. Here is a simple routine for your neck, shoulders, wrist and forearms:
If you have an office chair, then that can help with your posture, although it’s not essential. The advantage of an office chair is that you can usually modify the height and tilt of the seat as well as the backrest. This option is excellent for creating a variety of different sitting positions to avoid getting stuck in one posture all the time. I mix my seating up, using kitchen chairs, my sons old Tripp Trapp chair or a large gym ball. Play around with different chairs and get some variety into your posture and position.
Your desk may be purpose-built, or it could be the kitchen table or any other surface you can get your hands on. In most cases, it will be of a fixed height, so if you’re particularly tall or short, you’ll need to modify the height of either the desk or the chair. When sitting, you should be flexed so that your elbow is 90 degrees or just over. Thinking about working zones is vital to help maintain good posture. The diagram below should help you organise your workspace.
If you’re working on a laptop, YOU WILL NEED to get a stand and either a USB or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Without that, you will be sucked into your laptop, followed by a predictable litany of neck pain, back pain and headaches. The stand that I use is an Urbo Sprinter – simple, affordable, light and packs down small. You need to get set up so that the top of the screen or external monitor is at eye level. If you’re using an external monitor then have a look around and see what you can find. I’ve used some old books to achieve this.
Last But NOT Least Your Eyes
You may well experience eye fatigue and to combat this I recommend two things. Firstly, change the settings on your monitor. There are two things to do here, lower the brightness settings and install f.lux on your computer. F.lux is a free app that warms the light on your screen (takes out the blue light) as the day goes through. This App will decrease eye strain and can also help with winding down after a day in front of a monitor, which will also help with your sleep. You can download it here for PC and Mac; you won’t regret it.
Secondly, your eyes will get tired from having to maintain focus on a screen, have a look at these exercises to ease the strain.