Make working from home work for you
Happily, some COVID-19 restrictions are easing. However, those who have been able to work from home will likely continue to do so for some time to come.
So, how can you make sure your work from home set up is working for you?
Dr Rebecca Mellor, research officer and physiotherapist at Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation, has some tips on how to optimize your work space.
CREATE A DEDICATED SPACE
If you have the space, Rebecca suggests creating a dedicated work area in your home. This helps create a sense of routine and separation between your work and personal life. If you can, find a space that is quiet and has good, natural light.
“One of the things that is very important is your chair and how you sit yourself in your chair,” Rebecca says. An office chair is your best option but if you only have access to a kitchen chair you can make some additions to make it more comfortable.
When you are seated at your chair, your hips and knees should be at 90 degrees, with your feet flat on the floor. If you are unable to do this with your current set up you may want to introduce a footrest, and a box or telephone book can be used in a pinch.
Make sure you are sitting well back in your chair, with some space between the backs of your knees and the chair. If you don’t have good support in your lower back, Rebecca suggests using household items to improvise. “If you don't have good support in your lower back, you may notice increased postural pain there. So, if you can use a small pillow or a rolled-up towel to place in the small of your back, that will help to give you a bit of extra support there,” Rebecca recommends.
When working at a computer, she advises, “keep your elbows bent at about 90 degrees, shoulders back and down and relaxed, and your wrists should be in line with your forearms. Make sure that your eyes are at a level to the top of your screen, chin slightly tucked so that you can keep your neck stretched out and don’t slouch forwards. Think “tall”.” If your chair is too low for this position you can use a firm pillow on your seat to raise yourself up.
Good posture at your workstation can help you avoid neck and back pain.
“When you're sitting, make sure that you lift up gently through your hips and lower back, using your lower abdominals, and that your lower back is not exaggeratedly arched or tilted back . Avoid slouched positions working at the computer because that will also place increased stress and strain on the joints and muscles in your thoracic spine, and neck”, Rebecca suggests. Again – Think tall!
She also recommends setting a reminder every 20 – 30 minutes to remind you to check and correct your posture.
TAKE A BREAK
Sitting for long periods of time can cause stiffness and pain, so Rebecca encourages taking short breaks regularly to stretch your neck, upper back and shoulders. You can do some of these stretches in your chair, but it’s important to get up and stretch your legs every so often.