Working from home is our new norm.
Millions of people are currently working from home at a screen. If you are one of them please do take the time to make sure your workstation is correctly set up for you as it can really help you avoid any aches and pains.
When working in an office we often take for granted the furniture and equipment that we use. A desk, a chair with wheels and hopefully some adjustability, a screen or two that we can have at the correct height for our eyes etc
However, for many people, working from home is something that they’ve had to adapt their home to accommodate, often using a dining room table and chair, a laptop and a mobile to get the job done. Along with this, many people are finding that they are sitting for longer hours each day. Where once we might move to a different space for a meeting, get up to walk over to a colleague or head out to a shop or canteen for lunch, we are now sitting glued to our screens for these things.
Unfortunately for some, the home workstation set up and long hours sitting can lead to aches and pains. The most commonly reported aches and pains I’ve heard of due to working from home have been neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, upper and lower back problems. In my experience these aches and pains can happen even if we are pretty ‘in the know’ about how to set up a workstation, the importance of breaks and good posture. Simply the increase in hours at a screen can have an impact.
Pre-covid I would spend the majority of my working week on my feet treating patients or carrying out workstation assessments with one day a week work on site in an office with a fully adjustable workstation set up. For any admin at my home office where I have a desk and office chair, I would use a laptop.
When lockdown started and my consultations became remote, I found I was spending a lot more time sitting looking down at my screen not just for appointments and meetings for work but also for group social things and training events. I started to notice my neck and shoulders aching towards the end of the day. I also noticed my chair wasn’t very comfortable which I’d never had problems with in the past Knowing what I needed to do, I ordered a laptop raiser, separate keyboard and mouse and a different chair and I’m pleased to say my aches and pains eased.
So what about you?
Is your workstation comfortable, supportive and adjustable enough for you? Are you taking regular breaks from sitting and getting up and moving around? Are you spending longer hours at the screen than you used to?
Are you noticing any aches and pains with sitting at your workstation? If so help is here.
Here are some initial suggestions of what to do
Make sure you have good posture – I know physios are always talking about the importance of good posture and you’ll be pleased to hear there’s no exception here :-). Good posture is SO important when sitting or standing at your workstation. Make sure you’re keeping your back and head upright, your feet are on the floor or a footrest, your upper arms are by your sides, with 90 degree elbow bend and your forearms are level with the table top. Deviating away from this and you may well start to get aches and pains.
Good set up of equipment and furniture – To help achieve and maintain good posture it’s important to make sure your workstation is well set up. If you can see that there are some aspects that aren’t great and you know what needs to be done and can do it, then please do.
For example if you’re using a dining room table and chair and the table is too high/chair is too low to get your elbows at 90 degrees perhaps try sitting on a cushion. A cushion will raise you up in the chair so remember to add a footstool too if needs be as it’s important to have your feet supported and not have too much pressure on the under side of your thighs. If the cushion helps a bit but your forearms are still not level with the table top or you can’t get your elbows comfortably into your side you may need to either try a lower table or get a different chair that can raise you up.
When looking for a suitable, comfortable office chair it should ideally have good adjustability including being able to be raised and lowered. Before buying an office chair it’s worth taking some measurements and making sure the chair you choose is big/small/suitable enough for your. If you’re not sure how to do this or what to look for do speak to someone who knows about chairs and with your measurements they can make a suitable recommendation. Chairs are not cheap and it’s really important to get this purchase right.
If you’re using a laptop and looking down at the screen all day I’d recommend getting a separate keyboard and mouse and raising the laptop up. Looking ahead helps to reduce the pull through our neck and shoulder muscles. If you’re still getting aches and pains despite this adjustment you may need a smaller keyboard and/or ergonomic mouse. If you find you’re leaning in to view the screen as it’s too small to see the font, either adjust the size of the font or you may be better off with a desktop/larger screen or possibly something else. To help make this decision I would definitely seek help from someone who can advise you on this.
There are many small adjustments to posture and the workstation set up that can make a big difference to sitting or standing comfortably at work. If you can make the adjustments yourself with things around your home then great but if not or if you have aches and pains that aren’t improved with the ‘home made’/temporary adjustments, you may require additional suitable office equipment. If you have a manager, Occupational Health team or HR that can help with these I’d strongly recommend seeking assistance from them.
Take regular breaks – The other big consideration is the amount of time you’re sitting at your desk. For many the working day is long, with some starting work when they would normally be leaving to travel to work and finishing when they would return home. Getting up regularly from sitting, perhaps standing during phone calls can all help. Ensuring you take a lunch break away from your desk and trying to get outside can all be helpful to reduce problems associated with prolonged sitting. Being strict with your time management and stepping away when your hours are done will be really helpful.
Ensuring you’re sitting comfortably, suitably supported and painfree is really important. I appreciate that this is just a glimpse into the multitude of adjustments that can help to achieve a comfortable workstation however I hope that you find these suggestions helpful and they resolve any issues you may be having and prevent others. If you can’t achieve these adjustments on your own and if you don’t have access to any additional support I’m here for remote and face to face workstation assessments and am happy to help.
To contact me please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether it’s just your workstation that you’d like to make sure is well set up or you have an ache or pain you think your workstation may be contributing to, I can help.