Whether you’ve recently started working from home since Covid-19 or you’ve been working remotely in your pyjamas for years, proper ergonomics and correct posture are extremely important. Because just like poorly fitting shoes can cause pain in your feet, your workspace can cause ongoing problems such as pain in your neck and back. To help you out, here are some tips to ensure your WFH work station has been set up properly.
Identify Warning Signs Of Back Pain
When you’re constantly contracting the muscles in your shoulders, arms, hands, or neck, it can cause muscle fatigue which then leads to neck and back pain. Bad posture and poor ergonomics are also to blame for causing episodes of aggravation and pain, which can eventually cause lasting damage to your spine and other areas of your body, especially if you notice that your pain gets worse at certain times of the day. If you’re experiencing pain in your back, neck, wrist, or anywhere else in your body, your position will most likely need to be adjusted.
Providing a neutral support posture for your shoulders, arms, and upper body may help you work from home with the least amount of muscle tension so you can avoid neck strain and back pain. Unfortunately, poor ergonomics can become second nature far too quickly. So, if you notice yourself falling into bad habits, remember minimising pain by correcting your posture each day is always much easier than months of visiting doctors and physical therapies. Because if you’re feeling pain while working, you should take it as a sign that something isn’t right.
Correct Body Alignment
Using proper office ergonomics such as sitting on your chair at the correct height and practicing good desk posture can help ensure your stay comfortable and pain free while you’re working from home. If you have a standing desk it’s important that you keep your body in line, without slouching, twisting, or leaning to the side. That means your legs, torso, shoulders, neck, and head should all be vertically in line with each other. When you’re sitting at your desk, it’s very important that the small of your back is always properly supported. Check that the lower part of your office chair’s backrest curves outwards and provides adequate lumbar support for the inward spine curve of your lower back.
With feet flat on the floor or a footrest, adjust the height of your chair so you can sit with your thighs parallel to the floor. Adjust the armrests on your chair so that your arms can rest gently while relaxing your shoulders without slumping. Your hips, ankles, knees, and elbows should all be flexed or bent at 90 degree angles, while ensuring that there’s no added pressure on the backs of your knees, and plenty of clearance under the desk for your thighs and feet. Your wrists should be resting in a neutral position in line between your hand and forearm. Remember too that you shouldn’t sit at your desk or stand up for too long, so take regular breaks and occasionally change your posture.
Mouse & Keyboard
Your cordless mouse and keyboard should both always be within easy reach on the surface of your desk. Whenever you’re using your mouse or typing on your keyboard, your wrists should be straight, your upper arms should be close to your sides, and your hands should be in line with your elbows. Use keyboard shortcuts as much as you can in order to reduce extended use of your mouse, and adjust its sensitivity so that you only need a light touch to move your mouse.
Make sure your monitor is directly behind your mouse and keyboard on the desk, with the brightest source of light at the sides. It should be around 45cm to 70cm or an arm’s length in front of you. The top of the screen should be at around eye level or slightly below your eyes so that you’re not looking down all day and causing neck strain. If you already wear glasses or bifocals while using your computer, it’s a good idea to lower your monitor an additional 2 to 4cm to ensure you’re more comfortable. If you are lucky enough to have an ultrawide or multiple monitor setup, remember to swivel in your chair rather than constantly turning your head to view them. Alternatively, consider changing monitor orientation from landscape to portrait if your chair doesn’t swivel or you can’t adjust it.
Basically, these tips above are some small steps that you can take to reduce pain and protect your body while working from home. Today’s bad habits may end up causing you some really bad problems later in life, which is why you should do what you can about your posture and ergonomics while you can.
While good ergonomics takes a fair amount of practice at the best of times, just remember that Covid-19 could mean that you’ll be working from home for some time yet. So, simply by being mindful of WFH ergonomics now could help you create good habits that you’ll end up using for the rest of your life.