A significant number of people are currently working from home due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
For many, this is not a situation you’ll have been able to prepare for, and so you might find yourself having to create makeshift workspaces using the likes of sofas, coffee tables and garden furniture.
These improvised offices can cause havoc with your posture, which over time can have a significant impact on your body.
By giving some thought to your working environment and making some simple adjustments you can help to reduce the risk of aches, pains or injury and can enjoy a more comfortable and productive home working space.
Find the right space
While it can be tempting to slouch on the couch or stay in bed when working from your laptop, to work effectively it’s important to create a dedicated workspace.
Not only will this help with your focus, but by having a dedicated area you can set up your desk, chair and computer in a way that won’t be detrimental to your posture.
Get the basics right
Unless you’ve got the luxury of having an adjustable office chair available at home, you’ll have to get creative with your kitchen setup.
Kitchen tables are often higher than a standard desk, and dining chairs generally lower than the ideal office chair.
This can mean that your elbows end up being too far below the height of the table, causing pressure on the underside of your wrists. It can also result in overstretching or slouching, which can cause pain and stiffness in your neck, shoulders and back.
Your chair height should be adjusted so that your hips and torso are at 90 degrees and your knees at 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor. This might mean raising yourself up by using cushions, or if your feet aren’t flat on the floor, using a footrest or a makeshift one from a box.
Ideally, try and choose a chair with arms that you can rest your own on to avoid excessive tension through your shoulders.
We know it’s comfy but try to avoid crossing your legs as this can lead to a whole host of posture-related problems.
Your chair should be straight on to your screen to avoid any twisting, as this can put strain on your back.
One cheap trick for a lumbar supported chair is to roll up a towel or find a small pillow and place it between your lower back and the back rest. This will be particularly beneficial for those who suffer from lower back pain.
Elevate your laptop
Your computer screen or laptop should be at eye level. If it’s too high or low, you’ll be tilting your head back or hunching over to look at it, which can be uncomfortable. In an ideal world you’d have an adjustable stand, but if that’s not possible at home, find a sturdy box or book to raise your screen up. As a rough guide, your screen should be arm’s length away from you.
If you have a keyboard, ensure it is in a position where you can use it with your wrists in neutral. If your keyboard is too high, a wrist rest may be required to keep your wrist at the same level as the keys.
Your keyboard and mouse should be close enough to your body so that your elbows are bent at 90 degree angles, or as close to as possible. This will prevent you stretching too far forwards and will encourage you to sit up straighter.
Mix things up
Even if you have the perfect desk setup, it’s never a good idea to stay in one position for too long. If space allows, a kitchen counter can make the perfect standing desk which you can switch between to mix up your posture and the muscles in use.
Just remember to raise up your laptop so that your screen is at eye height and your elbows are bent at 90 degrees.
Given the increased amount of time we are spending indoors in smaller spaces it’s more important than ever to make a conscious effort to build movement and activity into your day.
Frequent short breaks are better for you than fewer longer ones – it’s recommended that you get up to move and stretch at least once an hour, for around 5 minutes.
It can be easy to get swept up in your work and lose track of how long you’ve been sat down in the same position for, so you might find it useful to use a timer or set a reminder in your calendar to move.
Another useful tip can be to write yourself a sticky note saying “sit up straight” and stick it somewhere in sight. This will serve as a constant prompt to think about your posture.
To help support better posture both at work and in your general life it is extremely beneficial to carry out some exercises, with a focus on strengthening your core. Yoga is a great way to do this – there are free yoga tutorials available for all ages and abilities on YouTube.
Speak to a physio
If you’re already suffering from any aches or niggles it is a good idea to book an appointment to speak to one of our physios before it develops into something more serious.
You can speak to one of our physiotherapists today using our videocall technology through the Ascenti Physio app.
We will be able to provide you with professional advice and a work station assessment as part of your video appointment.
We will also be able to make recommendations that you can share with your employer and will prescribe you with a treatment plan, which will include personalised exercises and advice that you can follow using the same app on your phone.