Dining room tables around Australia have quickly become the new work spaces for most office workers in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though working from home might have once been viewed as a treat, you are most likely finding this rapid shift very challenging for a multitude of reasons.
Is your back and/or neck starting to give you grief? Here are a few tips related to your home setup that might help you to alleviate or prevent this musculoskeletal pain.
1. Happy arms
Ensure the chair you have chosen is high enough (or adjustable) so that you’re not having to hitch up your shoulders or forearms to type. Your shoulders should be relaxed with your elbows by your sides and forearms parallel to the floor and resting on the desk.
2. Screen time
Position your screen so that it is roughly an arm’s length away and directly in front of you. Your eyes should be level with the top (or just below the top) of your screen. People will often use laptops at home – my advice would be to use a laptop stand or a few books to achieve the appropriate screen height and to purchase a separate keyboard and mouse for “happy arms”.
3. Sit back
Dining chairs rarely offer built in lumbar (low back) support. In fact, they are usually the cause of many lower back issues in those who sit in them regularly. If you don’t have anything better and would prefer not to upgrade to a supportive office chair, a lumbar support cushion or a small rolled up towel/cushion can be helpful to support your lower back. Try to remember to sit back into the chair so that your back is supported and take postural breaks 1-2 times every hour.
4. Feet last
If your feet are not flat on the floor after following steps 1-3, place a footrest or a couple of large books underneath your feet so that your hips are flexed to approximately 90 degrees.
SITTING VS. STANDING
Which is better? Neither. Movement is. Both sitting and standing for long periods is problematic and so you should focus on regularly alternating between the two. My recommendation would be to alternate between sitting and standing at least once every hour, especially given that your dining chair probably wouldn’t pass the ergonomic test.
Given that you are probably no longer walking to catch public transport, or grabbing that morning coffee, or rushing between meetings, you have probably become a lot more sedentary (how’s your daily step count fairing?). You may now need to set reminders to take regular breaks for both your physical health and musculoskeletal health, particularly as working from home also means we can end up working longer days.
Here at Bend + Mend we are offering Remote Telehealth Workstation Assessments for people who now need to work at home each day, many of whom do not have the correct desk set-up.