While this past week has been a big shift for many in numerous ways due to the recent declared pandemic of COVID-19. One of the biggest shifts comes from suddenly having to adapt your work environment from an office space to a work-from-home setting. This is why office ergonomics is such an important thing to discuss.
I am sure many of you have not considered a home office set up that is good for your body prior to our new health climate. In my profession, I do not spend a lot of time sitting (physiotherapists are somewhat lucky in that sense), however I do some work from home for administration (usually lounging on the couch) and that time I am sitting has more than tripled in the past week. As you have probably felt over the last week, that type of set up is less than ideal for long periods of time.
Even if you do have space for a make-shift at-home office, you likely have not spent a 40+ hour work week in there and are now noticing some of the aches and pains that come from sitting in this this type of set up. Further, you are likely noticing that a laptop is really not ergonomically friendly and are either sacrificing your shoulder/elbow position or your head/neck position.
Some things to consider when setting up your home office;
- All items you use must operate frequently should be directly in front of you, at elbow height and easy to reach
- Keyboard at elbow height
- Monitor positioned correctly meaning that it should be in eye-line from a normal sitting position
- Seat design: backrest/arm support, do your arms rest naturally and is there some support for your lower back?
- Change positions often/try to stand and move frequently (this encourages blood flow)
- Shoulders and neck relaxed (this is easier to do when the monitor and mouse are set up correctly)
- Leg room, often overlooked, ensure you can move and stretch your legs freely
During this time, I recognize you may not be able to accommodate all the changes above, especially now given non-essential services are closing. This is the time to adapt and be creative with what you have access to at home.
Tips for ensuring you can set up your office appropriately despite the circumstances;
- Use an external keyboard and mouse
- Prop your laptop up on old textbooks or yoga blocks
- Use a foot stool under your desk (especially helpful for if you’re needing to raise the height of your chair to accommodate your desk), a box or textbooks work in this situation as well
- A towel roll behind your back makes a great make-shift lumbar support
Regardless of your set up, even if optimized fully, posture plays a big role in how your body feels. Below are some key things to remember with sitting posture.
Posture tips for sitting:
- Sit on your sits bones (try to avoid rounding back onto your tailbone and sacrum)
- Hips and knees flexed to 90 degrees
- Feet flat on the floor or footstool
- Relax shoulders, neck and jaw (especially since you have likely been clenching more than usual due to heightened stresses)
- Maintain a slight curve in your low back
- Move OFTEN (stretch, go to the kitchen, do a few squats, hop onto our YouTube channel to see some of our 5 minute movement videos) avoid sitting still longer than 15 minutes if possible
Do you need help setting up you home office or are you feeling the effects of this sudden change to your work environment? We are available for telemedicine appointments to educate you on office ergonomics and set up and to ensure your body remains free from pain and dysfunction.
Written by Lisa Flanders, Physiotherapist. Lisa has a clinical focus on women’s health including pre and postnatal, gender diverse and applied pelvic health and high performance athletes. She currently lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Disclaimer – Everything shared is for informative purposes only. It is not intended for assessment, diagnosis or treatment purposes. If you feel there needs to be further investigation, please seek out a qualified health care professional for a proper assessment.