Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever are working from home.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever are working from home. While working from home definitely has its benefits, it also opens the door to possible orthopaedic injuries. The good news? Many problems caused by working from home can easily be avoided with some small tweaks.
The risks of working from home
Are you moving less? One of the main health risks that comes with working from home is decreased physical activity. Many of us who previously had the habit of walking or biking to work every day are now simply walking ten steps from our bedroom to our desk. Less activity can lead to muscle deconditioning and leave us more susceptible to orthopaedic injuries.
Are you crunched over your desk? Another issue is a poorly set up office. Most people had to quickly adjust from working in the office to working from home and might be making do with whatever office equipment they have. As a result, they may be working with a chair that isn’t the right height, or a desk that is too low or too high. Some have had to swap their usual office desktop for a laptop or tablet, which can lead to being crunched over all day—leading to poor posture and improper body alignment. One of the immediate issues that come from poor ergonomics is neck pain, but over time it can also cause muscle strains, carpal tunnel syndrome, and even tendonitis. Therefore, the right office setup is essential!
In order to avoid potential orthopaedic problems while working from home, it’s ket to maintain a neutral posture. This calls for good ergonomics. Here are some ideas to try out
- Level up your desk: Make sure your desk is at the proper height. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle, with the desk set to the height of your forearms so that your shoulders are relaxed. The average desk is 29 to 30 inches tall, but for some individuals, this may be too tall or too short.
- Check your chair: You’ll know that your chair is at the right height if your feet are planted on the ground without bending your knees. An adjustable chair is the best option, but make-do options include sitting on a stack of books if needed or using a footstool.
- Scope out your screen: Your screen should be about an arm’s length away so that you can easily read without straining your eyes or having to stretch your neck forward. The top of your screen should be directly at eye level. Again, a stack of books underneath your monitor can do wonders to get it to the right level. A monitor arm works well too.
- Lose the laptop: Laptops are an ergonomic nightmare because they encourage poor posture from crunching over. If you absolutely need to use a laptop, consider investing in a laptop stand (to keep your screen at eye level) and a separate keyboard (to keep your elbows properly aligned).
- Keep things close: Finally, keep your most-used items—such as your phone or pens—close to you so that you can avoid unnecessary reaching that can cause muscle strain.
The need for activity
While the pandemic has made it harder to get into the office, it has also made it harder to hit the gym. Because of this, it’s important to stay as active as possible during your workday. There are many small habits you can develop to help you do this.
Desk stretches: Performing simple desk stretches in between tasks is a great way to keep your body moving. Simply stretch your ankles and wrists while reading emails, or occasionally roll your neck from side to side to reduce tension. The quality of our posture naturally starts to decrease after about 15 to 20 minutes, so switch positions from time to time to shake things up.
Swap out your desk: A standing desk allows you to change positions and give you an opportunity to do some standing stretches. Or, swap out your desk chair for an exercise ball to help with both posture and core muscle activation.
Take a ‘Walkie-Talkie’: Another obvious but often overlooked solution is regularly taking time to get up from your desk and move around, ideally at least once an hour. Grab your headphones and take a call while you walk to sneak in some extra steps.
Get outside: Set the goal to go for a walk every day at lunchtime. It’s an instant mental and physical pick-me-up. Even taking five minutes during different times of your day to go outside, soak up the sun and get some movement in makes a huge difference in your mood, productivity, and, of course, your health!
We can’t avoid the fact that we are living in strange times and we have all had to make major adjustments in our lives. Whether working from home is a temporary or now permanent part of your life, make sure to take the time to look after your body. Doing so you will be able to improve your health now and avoid negative effects down the road. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to ask us!