Working from home: Your guide to getting the right set-up and avoiding back or neck pain.
You’re spending more time working at home. Make sure you have the right setup for back health.
Has your kitchen table or sofa suddenly turned into your makeshift workspace? Or have you got a designated home office space?
While you may be used to answering the odd email at the kitchen counter or writing the occasional report from the sofa whilst binge watching the latest series on Netflix; getting your home office set up correct is paramount to your health.
You may be a couple of weeks in already and be feeling fine but now that you are starting to work from home full time for the next few weeks (or even months!) if you haven’t got your set up right, sooner or later you will end up with aches and pain or worse!
So whether you’re a seasoned pro or work from home newbie – follow our top tips below to review your home workspace set up and avoid back and neck issues hampering your workload.
1. Rethink your laptop and tablet.
While laptops and tablets are convenient and great for working ‘on the go’, (seeing as though it’s unlikely you will be going anywhere for a while), they may not be your best option when setting up to work from home.
The reason laptops aren’t suitable for long periods of work is because it’s near impossible to get the correct set up for your posture. If the keyboard is in a comfortable easy to reach place for typing, you’ll have to stoop your head and neck down to look at your screen and if your screen is at the right height you’ll have to compromise your wrists and forearms – you see my point.
Where possible, use a desktop computer or a separate monitor. If you’re in a position where a laptop is your only option my advice for a quick and inexpensive fix would be to purchase an external keyboard (these can be picked up on Amazon for as little at £9.99), so you can put the laptop at comfortable monitor height and your new keyboard at a comfortable, easy to reach distance – problem solved!
2. Get you angles right.
Many of you have no doubtably seen the classic ergonomic diagram that shows how you should sit while working; your spine straight and your knees and elbows bent at 90-degree angles.
While this position isn’t achievable (or advisable) when working for long periods; for me it’s a good benchmark position to aim for while working and setting up your new found desk or kitchen table.
Once you’ve found this position, keep key objects such as your mouse, keyboard phone, stapler or close to your body to minimise the need to reach. Stand up to reach anything that isn’t within a comfortable reaching distance while sitting. Overreaching is one of the common reasons for injury we see within the clinic.
Another tip I regularly give to those looking to optimise their workspace for better posture is to aim to get your stomach as close to the desk as possible. If you have an office chair with arms that prevent you from getting your knees and thighs fully under your desk then consider removing the arms to save your back!
3. Monitor your screen position.
Your monitor should be at a height that you can look at with your neck straight, not bent. Recommendations suggest placing the monitor directly in front of you, about an arm’s length away with the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level.
With modern computer screens being so compact, for most people this means you will need to elevate the monitor (or laptop as per tip 1). You could invest in a monitor raiser; however, a stack cookbooks or that isolation reading list you’ve been meaning to make your way through would achieve the same effect!
While most people are familiar with having their screen at eye level, one of the biggest and regrettable mistakes people make when it come to screen placement, particularly if pushed for space, is having the monitor off set to one side. Long periods of working on a screen that is offset is a surefire way to develop neck and shoulder pain.
If your work requires you to work from two monitors; ensure the primary screen you work from is set up directly in front of you.
4. Get your head set.
Now we’re not talking strictly head position here as per the previous tip. If your work requires you to frequently talk on the phone and type at the same time, leading you to become the ‘office contortionist’ to cradle the phone between your head and neck, I’d strongly recommend putting your phone on speaker or better still using a headset.
5. Get up, get on up
We can talk as much about the ‘correct’ posture as we like but the fact is, no one posture is a ‘good’ posture if we spend to much time in it.
Even with the most optimal desk set up, the most important thing is not to sit for long uninterrupted periods. Make sure you get up and move around every half hour or so. Set a 30-minute timer if you have to.
It can also help to spend the occasional half hour working while standing. Now I’m not suggesting that you splash out and join the standing desk craze. Simply use some household objects to raise your laptop, monitor and keyboard to a height that allows you to stand for a period while working – this is where that pile of amazon delivery boxes could come in handy!
If you know anyone that the information in this article could help, then please feel free to pass it on and share with your family and friends.