Keep your neck and back safe while working from home (WFH)
Rachel E. Bergang
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, many of us have been working remotely from home. As a result of this abrupt transition, most of us have a less than ideal “office” set-up. This sub-optimal ergonomic environment is causing many of us to experience increased aches and pains in our neck and lower back. We are more sedentary, slouching on our sofas/beds, or using our laps as a desk for our laptops. The stress of the COVID-19 outbreak, layered with a workspace that isn’t conducive to your well-being, can cause these problems to escalate.
Dedicate a Space for a Home Office
Now is a good time to prevent problems down the road. Make the effort immediately as it is critical to optimize your home office before these issues arise. If you don’t already have a full office setup at home, try to create a space in your home dedicated to working. With children and significant others all in the same home, this could be a challenge, however, a stress-free zone of solitude is crucial for higher levels of concentration and productivity. Creativity may be needed to transform corners of rooms, spare rooms or even closets into a brand new work environment.
Watch Your Posture
When we sit on a sofa, there is a natural tendency to bend or hunch forward. Numerous other locations can be better for working, including kitchen counters, bridge tables or dining room tables. I personally sit on a cushion on the floor, use the sofa to support my back, and my coffee table for a workspace. When sitting in a chair, try to sit in an upright, neutral position (preferably on a chair with a back). Your feet should be resting on the floor. A footrest can also help. Place a pillow or rolled up towel behind your lower back for added support. Raising your computer to eye-level can put less stress on your neck and shoulders. Use textbooks, boxes or an upside-down laundry basket to get the correct height. A stand-alone monitor and keyboard is another option.
Don’t Look Down!
We are all increasing our screen time on smaller devices. Using phones and tablets, we are frequently texting, emailing and video conferencing. These are all great ways to stay connected, but watch your neck! Make an effort to not look down at your devices. Hold them up to your eye-level when you can. Using headphones when talking on the phone can help avoid poor neck positioning as well.
Try to be less sedentary and mix up sitting and standing. A good strategy would be to start
slowly and set up a timer to stand for 30-60 minutes a day, and then experiment with different time intervals for the frequency that works best for you. Maintain a routine and set up a schedule. Plan out your meals and snacks ahead of time. Avoid eating at your workstation. Set up a cut off time every day to disconnect from your devices (especially the news!). This will allow you to relax and recharge your batteries.
Taking Care of Our Minds and Bodies is Essential in These Uncertain Times
Practicing self-care will help with both physical and mental health. Try to incorporate some light at-home exercises and gentle stretches. Avoid cabin fever, and if healthy, try to go outside for a walk. Remember to practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from others.
Video-communication is a good way to connect with family, friends and colleagues, and reduce feelings of isolation.
This new reality is not what any of us planned, but it is imperative that we stay healthy, think positively and stay pain free, and remember that we are stronger together!