Millions of workers found themselves suddenly working from home (WFH) following stay-at-home orders from earlier this spring in response to COVID-19. Easy enough, right? Grab your laptop, maybe a mouse and secondary monitor, and enjoy the sweatpants life while working from home.
And it looks like for many non-essential or front-facing workers, our new normal could include longer time spent working from home. Major technology companies like Facebook, Alphabet, Salesforce, and Slack have recently announced they have no intention of expecting employees to return to office buildings until at least 2021. The work from home scenario could become a permanent situation; Square and Twitter announced in mid-May that the majority of its employees can telecommute indefinitely post COVID-19.
But working in a home office, day after day for weeks or months is a very different thing from doing it for a short while. Unless you have the right setup, sooner or later you will wind up with back pain.
With this new normal in mind, I reached out to Dr. Meir Tako from The Chiropractic Way in Sunnyvale for practical tips in improving our work from home environment. Read on for Dr. Tako’s recommendations on how to make your WFH set up kinder to your body.
USE THE 90-DEGREE RULE
Sitting with a 90-degree angle at the elbow, hip, and knee allow for the least amount of physical strain in a sitting position.
As many of us are using our everyday furniture pieces, not commercial ergonomically furniture, for our WFH setup, getting the proper alignment can be difficult. “Be creative,” said Dr. Tako. “If your chair is so high your feet don’t touch the floor, consider putting a box at your feet to create that 90-degree angle.”
KEEP LOOKING STRAIGHT AHEAD
Common complaints are neck and shoulder pain especially among laptop users. Without proper positioning, we tend to slightly look down at a laptop or monitor that sits lower than our eyes, creating tension from the neck to upper back. “A healthy neck will have a nice curve to it,” Dr. Tako said. “But if we are doing too much extension or too much flexion, we are compromising the right normal curve.”
To avoid these aches and pains, realign your eyes with the center of the screen.
“When working on a laptop, you can prop it, so it is at the correct height, “Dr. Tako said. “If you are slightly looking down to see your work, use some books or a box to raise your screen to the proper height. There are also stands that do that for you.”
STRETCH IT OUT
To avoid strain on the body from sitting too long, stand up and stretch for 10-15 seconds, ideally every 30 minutes. “It doesn’t have to be much, get up and stretch, do some yoga stretches…it doesn’t have to be a full workout, you need just to mobilize the body,” said Dr. Tako.
This helps to increase blood flow, reduce numbness, and takes the pressure off of hip, knee, and elbow joints. Sometimes we get lost in our work, so Dr.Tako advised to put your watch or smartwatch to work: “Take your watch, and set your timer and use it to remind you to get up!”
FIND THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE
Consider swapping out your kitchen chair for a ball, said Dr. Tako. “It is a cheap and fast way to fix your sitting posture,” he said. “You can also buy one of the balls that have a chair with it…[it] provides additional back support and stability.” Ensure your screen is still high enough that you’re looking straight ahead, is another reminder from Dr. Tako.
By making small changes like these and adjusting your new “office” space you can avoid minor injuries which can lead to bigger and more permanent problems. “If your ergonomics are correct, and you are doing the movements, you got it!” Dr. Tako said.
But even if you are following these tips and tackling all of the ergonomic WFH obstacles, should you need in person help don’t hesitate to contact a specialist like Dr. Tako who can provide specific help to make your WFH as comfortable and easy as your new morning commute.