Working from home: Preventing injury
With many more people than usual currently working from home, this post contains tips on optimising your work environment at home, include noise pollution, body position, use of keyboard shortcuts, and exercise. Read on and help keep your body comfortable and safe.
Start with your overall environment. Is it a clear, relatively quiet space for you to work in?
A cluttered or noisy environment can impact your stress levels that can cause increased tension in your neck, shoulders and back. So, find some desk or table space if possible: removing clutter and visual distractions. Clear the floor around you so you’re not twisting your body/legs/feet awkwardly to get comfortable and have clean computer (who hasn’t been distracted by the amount of crumbs in their keyboard at some point… No? Just me then…)
Tell family that you are working in this environment, and how much time you need without distractions. Both adults and children respond well to routine, so set aside a specific daily time for no interruptions so that everyone knows where they stand…and stick to it.
Spend the minimum amount of time at your new working environment, especially if it’s not ideal. Get focused and turn off the radio/music/social media so it is not competing for your attention. Use these things as an incentive instead to encourage you to finish your desk-based work as efficiently as possible, so that you can spend your free time being with family, exercising, enjoying social media (rather than it being a distraction) etc., instead of finishing tasks you should have done earlier.
Alternatively, if noise is an unavoidable issue, e.g. kids running about the house, low volume consistent music, such as light classical, e.g. Scala Radio, Classic FM or music streaming service, can be helpful to mask distracting noise.
In an ideal world, sit at a desk or table with an upright chair. Try to position yourself high enough that your knees are slightly than your hips to reduce pressure on your lower back and neck (adapt the chair with, for example, a small cushion or folded up towel to help achieve this). Keep your feet evenly positioned on the floor and avoid crossing your legs to reduce strain on your pelvis, spine and shoulders.
If you’re lucky enough to have a keyboard at home, plug this into your laptop and use it instead. Then raise the laptop screen up onto some books to get the screen up to eye-level which is much safer for your neck
Aim to be seated high enough to have your back straight, your elbows at right angles, to reduce strain on your wrists, forearms, and shoulders, but avoid being so high that you need to significantly stoop your neck to see your screen.
It’s a balancing act, not a perfect world: play around with your position until it feels as optimum as possible, and don’t be afraid to change it throughout the day as needed
Mouse-work is a frequent culprit of wrist, elbow, shoulder and neck injuries, particularly if you are using a laptop mouse-pad due to the awkward position it imposes on your hand, wrist and shoulder. Take some time to learn to use keyboard shortcuts: all computer software packages have pre-set and customisable mouse settings and keyboard shortcuts that can help to minimise mouse-work. Find some useful ones here:
If you have absolutely no choice but to be on the sofa working on a laptop, sit up as straight as possible, using cushions or rolled up towels to create some back support, have your feet on the floor, and take frequent breaks: Stand up, move around and do some gentle back bends to release tension in your spine.
If you have the option of setting up at a desk or table, please, please, please do so. The sofa really is the worst place for you to be working.
Take a daily 20-30 minute walk and incorporate some daily pilates, yoga practice or strength-based exercise for core stability and spinal support. You don’t need a gym or weights: there are plenty of body-weight exercises that you can do, e.g. press-ups, abdominal crunches, planks, squats and lunges with very limited space and no equipment.
There is no shortage of online exercise programmes to try (though quality can vary a lot: if in doubt, watch the entire thing through before
trying it). ‘Prime Video’ has lots of Yoga and Pilates videos you can stream for free if you have an Amazon Prime subscription. There are also relatively cheap, or free, subscription Apps with basic exercises, and lots of ‘free-trial’ Apps out there right now. Alternatively sign up to any local gym, pilates or yoga studio offers if they’re running online classes.
As always, if you are injured or in pain, call 07710 466880 or email email@example.com for advice and support.
Stay safe and sane.
Alex, Body for Life Osteopathy