New to working from home (WFH) or needing to work from home but not at your usual ‘desk’?
Here are 10 tips to try and help you prevent soft tissue discomfort.
1) Avoid sitting on the sofa (or equally soft chair) with either your laptop on your lap, or leaning forward to your laptop on a coffee table. Although it may seem fine initially and you may have done this for short periods before, this is a recipe for lower back, upper back and neck discomfort!
2) If you don’t have an actual desk, find a hard surface to act as a ‘desk’ and that ideally has space for your legs to go under (dining table etc) and has space for your forearms to rest flat on.
3) If you will be working a lot on a laptop, it might be worth investing (usually about £30 in total) in a laptop stand and a bluetooth mouse and keyboard. If you get an adjustable laptop stand it will mean it is suitable for more than one person and the bluetooth USB means it can be used by any laptop with a USB port. This allows you to have the screen at eye level and the keyboard and mouse flat on the ‘desk’. Or you may have access to another screen so that you can hook the laptop up and use the separate screen and the keyboard of the laptop. Hunching over a laptop on a desk is likely to lead to back and neck discomfort.
4) Find a supportive chair….. if you don’t have an supportive office type chair, probably the next best thing you’re likely to find at home is a chair that goes with a dining table. Ideally if you’re going to be sat for a while, something with a back is helpful. People not used to stools will find it hard to maintain a good posture for a period of time. To add some lumbar support to a chair, roll up a bath towel and place in the lower back where the natural curve of your back is. This will then act as a lumbar support and assist you to sit with better posture.
5) If you’re struggling with discomfort due to the chair not being supportive enough, if you have one at home and it’s the’ right’ size for you, you could use a gym ball. The gym needs to be quite firm and when sat on it the tops of your legs need to be close to parallel to the floor. Sitting on a gym ball makes it hard to slouch – it also requires you to use your stomach muscles….
6) When sat avoid crossing your legs. We have a tendency to favour which way we cross our legs and this can lead to lower back and/or gluteal discomfort.
7) Only use a breakfast bar / island if it’s the right height and you have a supportive chair that goes with it. This setup is likely to benefit from the laptop stand / bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Depending on your height a breakfast bar / island could make a good standing desk.
8) Use a hands free kits when making or taking calls….. I know these can be like gold dust in homes, but if you can get your hands on one, it can help prevent neck discomfort if you’re on the phone for long periods.
9) Take breaks and MOVE! Working from home tends to mean we have less reason to need to move; we don’t need to get up to speak to a colleague etc, which means people can be sat for longer periods at home. Standing up while on phone calls is a useful way of ensuring you don’t stay seated all day. If you don’t need to be looking at the screen on a call and you have a garden, maybe walk round the garden while you’re on a call. If you live in a house and have a toilet on both levels, try to use the one on the opposite level.
10) If you’re not sure if you’re set up correctly and there’s someone else at home, get them to look at you side on while you’re working – are your shoulders dropped and back? Is your chin pointing forward and not down? Are your forearms flat on the surface while typing? Is everything within easy reach (keyboard and mouse)? Or are you stretching to reach something? Leaning forward? Slouched?