How to perfect your work from home set up so that you can avoid back pain
With many people working from home these days due to COVID19 there has been a lot of talk going on about how to set up an ergonomic home office. People are finding that their current work from home set up is literally a pain in the neck.
As a qualified Chiropractor as well as a work from home digital entrepreneur I talk to people all the time about how to best set up their home office. My clients tell me that once they have it all set up their pains decrease significantly!
So as a fellow working from home mum (well… dog mum!) I wanted to share with you my top 5 tips so that you can have the best work from home set up that won’t cause you back and neck pain.
Tip 1 – Set up your computer correctly
Most people these days work on a laptop rather than a desktop computer. Unfortunately the way a laptop is designed means that it lacks any good ergonomics. Either the monitor will be too low or the keyboard too high.
So, the best thing to do if you are going to be doing lots of hours on a laptop is to purchase a separate keyboard and mouse. This will allow you to elevate the laptop but still have the keyboard at an appropriate height.
The keyboard should sit directly in front of your body and at a distance where your elbows are tucked into your sides at a 90-degree angle. Your arms should not extend away from your body as this will increase shoulder and neck strain. The mouse should sit in the same line as the keyboard, so you are not reaching too far forwards or sideways for it.
Your monitor should sit at approximately arm’s length away from your seated position and the top of the monitor should be just below eye level. This helps to avoid strain on your neck as you read down the screen. You don’t need anything fancy to prop your laptop up to this height. I find big textbooks or the yellow pages are a great prop for your laptop.
Tip 2 – Improve Your chair
Your chair is not the be-all to your work from home set up. You shouldn’t need to go and buy an expensive top shelf ergonomic chair. A chair alone rarely controls how you sit but there are qualities to a chair that can help improve your posture and at home office set up.
When choosing a chair, you want one where the backrest supports most of your back in a vertical or slightly back position. If the chair does come with built in support, you want to make sure that it sits in the small of your low back i.e. where the curve is. If the support sits too high or too low, then it is going to support you in the wrong way and cause issues for you later on.
If your chair does not offer any low back support an easy way to give you some support is to roll up a small bath towel, tie it up with elastic bands and place that in your low back curve. This will support your low back as well as make it hard to slouch.
Your chair should be at a height where your feet sit flat on the floor and your knees are in line or slightly lower than your hips. Your forearms should be level with your desk top.
Tip 3 – Take regular breaks and move your body
The worst thing you can do is sit for hours upon hours straight. I would say this is worse for you then sitting at a poor work from home set up.
Set a timer on your phone or use an app that notifies you when time is up. Everyone is different with the amount of time they like to work for straight. I find I like to work in 50 minute blocks with a 5-10 minute break.
When you have your break don’t just sit and scroll on your phone. Make sure to get up and move your body. A simple walk around your house, dance to a song or a stretch routine is a great way to get your blood pumping, your heart rate up and lift your energy.
Tip 4 – Be mindful of your posture
When sitting at your desk it can be easy to fall into a slouch position or some other type of poor posture. It is really important that you try and be mindful of your posture as this will help in preventing any back or neck pain or stiffness.
Your posture at your work from home set up should be that your:
- Body is in a symmetrical position – do not cross your legs or lean over to one side.
- Feet should be flat on the floor.
- Knees should be in line or just a little bit lower than your hips.
- Arms should be above the desk with your elbows tucked into your side at a 90 degree angle.
- Eyes should be level with the top of the screen.
- You should have some support for your lower back whether that be built into the chair or something you have put there like the towel I mentioned earlier.
Tip 5 – Alternate between sitting and standing if you can
While most work from home set ups are not going to include a sit-stand desk, you should still try to change to a standing position as much as you can. I suggest trying to stand when you are taking phone calls or on a zoom meeting. That way you are typing less and won’t put too much stress on your neck or back.
Try propping up your laptop on some books up on the kitchen counter to make a makeshift standing desk area. This will give you a sturdy set up while taking your calls or face timing your colleagues.
Working from home doesn’t have to lead to pains and strains if you take the time to create a good ergonomic home office that is customised to you. This isn’t hard to do – it just takes a little fiddling around as well as some trial and errors, but once you get it right there will be no pesky co-workers to come and change it up (well as long as the kids don’t get in!).
Alana McQueen is a qualified Chiropractor who has a passion for helping pregnant women, mums and their children. She spends half her time treating patients at a clinic or at the clients home and the other half working at home on her online business. She is passionate about helping improve peoples health and therefore their lives.