Working from Home

All over the world, many companies have rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies to limit the spread of Covid-19 and it’s realistic to assume that this shift could become the ‘new normal’ for some time to come.

Here are my top tips on how to improve your comfort and try to avoid the onset of long-term back and neck problems.

What are you sitting on to work?

If you’re working from home, try to create an ‘office space’ and choose a desk or table with adequate knee/foot clearance so that you can sit close to your laptop.

If there’s a limited choice, usually a simple, straight-back wooden chair is best. In addition, you could try using a small rolled up towel to support your lower back whilst sitting.

Use a laptop stand

Using a laptop can cause back issues or “tech neck” with surprising speed. The display sits too low and the keyboard is not at an optimal angle. You can solve this simply by tipping the laptop keyboard up slightly with a couple of drinks coasters etc. or better still purchasing a laptop stand or using an external keyboard. Look for a stand that is adjustable, as positioning will depend on your height.

A mouse is also a good idea. Mouse buttons tend to be more precise and easier to use than those on a touchpad, which reduces repetitive or forceful clicking.

Use an external monitor

An external monitor is a great idea if you are using your laptop at home. This is also likely to solve the height issue previously discussed, which means you won’t need to buy a stand.

Stretch and fidget

Try to get up and move about if you find yourself spending a lot of time in front of the computer. I call this creative fidgeting. Use ‘thinking time’ to fidget, moving your weight from one buttock cheek to the other or gently twisting in the chair. If you have telephone calls to make, stand up and move about.

Keyboard skills and shortcuts

Often, we don’t like to admit it but one reason we hunch up over the computer is that our keyboard skills are not what we would hope they should be. If you’re searching for numbers or punctuation, your typing will not be fluid. This creates tension in the upper back and neck. There are FREE tools on the internet such as http://www.typingclub.com that can help you to improve your typing and thereby reduce stress on the neck and shoulders.

Furthermore, if you’re writing reports or anything which involves repetition of phrases you can create ‘shortcuts’ with programmes such as TextExpander – http://www.textexpander.com. Personally, I have found this incredibly useful.

Keep those legs out in front of you whilst sitting

When working from home at the dining room table, it’s very easy to find yourself tucking your feet around the chair legs or, if sat on the sofa, your knees will be bent at a more acute angle. This will take its toll on the knees. With your knees in a more flexed position, your patella (knee cap) can glide less easily on the underlying femur (thigh bone), which often makes the knees ache. The solution lies in keeping the legs stretched out fairly straight in front of you whilst sitting. Once more, try to stand up and move around as much as is feasible.

Unfamiliar exercises

Whilst I applaud you if you’ve been trying to exercise more, be careful about “new exercise trends” or promises of getting fit in 28 days etc. The best advice I can give you is to mix any new exercises with things that you are familiar with. Knees in particular don’t like surprises! If you have shaken up your lower back, hip or knees don’t despair, but go back to something more gentle for a few days. Next time you try the workout, half the number of repetitions that you did the first time and again give yourself a few days off before you repeat the workout again.

Exercise is a great way to relieve tension, mental stress and, let’s face it, the boredom of being stuck at home. Enjoy a mix of walks, workouts and cycling to give the joints a variety of movement opportunities.

For more information on ergonomics or to book a FREE video consultation, please call Hugh Ruxton on 01746 761050.

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