If you are reading this in the Spring/Summer of 2020, it is very likely that you are doing so within the confines of your own home. During the COVID19 pandemic, many of us have converted from driving to the office to working from home. Unfortunately, working from home is likely to exacerbate neck, back, joint pain. Although it may feel comfortable to slouch on our favorite couch with a laptop, our home workplace is not set up for good ergonomics, which will ultimately worsen our posture, increase stress in our spine, and lead to stiffness and pain as the work week wears on.
Here are some tips to make our home office posture friendly:
- Define your workspace. Although we relish in the opportunity to take work calls and read emails in bed or around the house, remember that our bodies are not meant to sustain 8 hours of poor posture. Claim a desk with plenty of space for your computer/phone/notes/equipment. The desk should also offer a couple inches of knee clearance so you can adjust your legs during the day.
- A height adjustable chair will allow you to find the right height to rest your shoulders/elbows/wrists. Your forearms should comfortably sit on the desk with your elbows at a 90 degree angle. Having a low chair is the perfect setup to have your wrists naturally bent downwards, exacerbating carpal tunnel.
- Next, your hands should be able to use a keyboard while keeping your wrists in a neutral position. Have enough space for your mouse, phone, and other supplies so you are neither "pinned in" by a restrictive environment or having to stretch awkward to reach what you need.
- Most computer monitors require us to bend our necks downwards and forwards. This is a great way to add stress onto those hardworking cervical paraspinal muscles. After 8 hours, the strain from these muscles are easily transform into headaches. Be sure to add height to your computer monitor so your eyes are level with the top of the screen. You should be able to see the center of the monitor with your eyes tilted slightly downwards.
- Working all day on the laptop is a recipe for pain. Do yourself a favor and connect your laptop to a separate keyboard, mouse, and monitor to allow a more natural work environment.
- Besides customizing your workdesk, make sure to take frequent breaks. Go drink some water, take a quick yoga break, or step outside. No matter how ergonomic we make a workplace, our bodies are not meant to be in one position, even a neutral position, for more than 1-2 hours at a time. If you need to take a phone call, feel free to walk around unencumbered. Slip into bed to read those emails.
Keep your body active and those aches and pains should never crop up. Stay mindful!