31 Jul Working from Home Ergonomics
Laptop vs Desktop
Since lockdown, a lot of people started to work from home and even though lockdown has now eased for many, this will remain as the new way of working life. As we have returned to seeing patients at TheOsteo Clinic, we have noticed an increase in the amount of people coming to the clinic for problems relating to the upper back and neck areas. Patients have noted that this onset has coincided with starting to work from home, whereas prior to lockdown many were working from desk in an office. For the most part, the common culprit seems to be a poor work station setup along with the use of a laptop. So we will discuss some useful tips and reminders to help avoid neck and back pain whilst working from home.
Where you set up to work:
Providing you do not need to have an online video conference call you could potentially work from the comfort of your own bed. For anyone that can boast about how comfortable their bed is and how much they enjoy spending time in it, this could be the ideal dream! Remember your bed is designed to provide support to your back when you are laying down not when sitting up slouched over a laptop.
‘I agree hence why I use my nice comfy sofa’. Again it is good to remember chilling out and lounging on your sofa for hours is different to sitting on your sofa for hours trying to do work on your laptop. When you are lounging you are free to shuffle and move around but when you are in front of a laptop on your sofa, not only are you already slumped, your neck is stooped forward to focus on the screen, your shoulders and arms are hunched up and drawn inwards in order use the touchpad and keys meaning more strain is put through your neck and back muscles.
But what about those that use their kitchen worktop and bar stool? The problem arises with the amount of time spent. With no back support provided with the bar stool, people often start conscious of their seated posture, however after a few hours and once focussed on their task, their back tires and good postural habits go out the window.
So if you have the room, always set up a dedicated office space. If you don’t have the space then consider investing (or hopefully getting your boss to invest) in a laptop stand that can be used for standing or on a sofa/couch. If that is not an option then try to alternate between where you work throughout the day perhaps spending some time on the couch then later on the kitchen worktop or dining table etc.
What you use to work:
Laptops are designed to take your work on the go but there is a reason why offices still use desktop computers. With all the advances made in laptop technology they still have fewer components than a desktop computer and a smaller battery life, this indicates that although some are capable of doing the task your desktop in your office would do, they are not intended to be used for the typical 8-hour shift you would do at your office.
A desk and good office chair will provide comfort and support and allow you to work for longer.
At the very least you want your screen-be it the laptop, projector or television to be at eye level, so perhaps having a separate keyboard and mouse may allow you to do this.
Your work environment behaviour:
Being at home means you are in comfortable surroundings and a less formal setting, some companies find that the benefit of having staff work from home means they are not so constricted by time, therefore without having to rush to get back home and always having access to work, employees may be more inclined to work longer and to finish tasks.
Employees may have routines such as taking a short break from the screen now and again, going for walks at lunchtime for a change of environment or even doing some form of exercise as part of their commute.
The inclination when working from home maybe to stop doing these things but these activities are beneficial for the body both physically and mentally.
Working from home can provide opportunities:
- You could use the time lost commuting to now do some form of exercise
- Providing you can get an internet connection, some of your working hours could be done outside amongst nature
- A good advantage is there is no need to feel conscious about the doing ‘the weird stretch your osteopath has shown you‘!
Not matter how good the set up, sitting in front of screen at a desk for half the day is not ideal but if you find you are having more problems since working from home then try to replicate your office space as best as you can and if you are still having problems come and see us!