The Pain of Working from Home

FB Aug 2021 (36)

The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work . While people are beginning to return to offices across the UK, many still remain working from home.

And even now that the pandemic is slowly beginning to pass, remote working is likely to remain the norm for millions of workers, as companies learn that certain jobs don’t require the in-office hours they once did. 

A study by Bupa found that since lockdown 63% of workers have experienced musculoskeletal problems including back pain, neck pain and knee injuries, as a result of working from home.  Only a third have a dedicated workstation leaving many working from sofas, beds and even beanbags.

For many, one of the key things to be affected by a makeshift workstation is their posture, often leading to pain or discomfort. 

Wherever you’re camped out for the day, people often find their setup doesn’t offer them the same level of support they have in the office. 

So, what can you do? 

Spend as much time as you can working in a neutral posture, a comfortable body position, where no body part is awkwardly bent or twisted and periodically move around to promote circulation. 

For computer work this means paying attention to:

  • Keeping your screen at a comfortable viewing height. Don’t look down at your screen, like to a laptop on a table or to your phone. If you have a separate screen or if you are using a laptop, you might have to put it on a pile of books or on a cardboard box to raise it to a comfortable viewing position straight in front of you.
  • Minimizing the chances of visual eye strain from glare. Don’t work with your back to a window, as the light coming in will cause a glare on your screen, and don’t work facing a window, as you’ll be staring into the light. Unless the window has shades or curtains that can be closed, your screen should be perpendicular to the window.
  • Not reading from a tablet or papers that are flat on your table, or your head will constantly have to move up and down. If you need to go back and forth between a laptop or computer screen and separate reading material, use a vertical document holder or put your tablet on a stand.
  • Avoiding soft wrist rests – it may seem like they’re providing support, but putting anything beneath your wrists adds compression on the tendons and nerves, which can increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Trying to sit back in your chair – don’t try to keep sitting upright and don’t hunch forward in your chair like a turtle. Your lower back curves in toward your belly and it is the most relaxed posture for the lower back, putting the least pressure on the discs in that region. Make sure that you can sit back in your chair so some of your body weight is being supported by the chair back and sit close enough to the desk to comfortably reach your keyboard and mouse. Use a cushion or rolled-up towel behind your lower back if your chair does not have good support. It’s a cheap and less effective substitute for an ergonomic chair, but it’s better than nothing.
  • Resting your feet flat on either the floor or a foot support – if your feet don’t reach the floor, use a box, pile of books, cushion or footrest. Don’t pull your feet back underneath the chair or let them dangle in the air as this puts pressure under the thighs, restricts blood flow to your lower legs and feet and increases your risk of a deep vein thrombosis.
  • And most importantly every 20 to 30 minutes stand, stretch and move around for a minute or two to promote circulation and relax muscles. Walk to get a glass of water or make a hot drink. But don’t try to work for hours on end standing up.

If you follow these tips to make your home office more ergonomically designed, the more you can work in a neutral posture and the more you can move around, the less the chance of any injury.