With the recent concern over the spread of COVID-19, many employers are encouraging their employees to remain home from the office and work remotely. This is a good way to help prevent the spread of the virus, but can be a problem for workers who might run into problems turning their home into a healthy, productive working environment.
At my clinic Madison Square Wellness, we are especially concerned with helping patients understand the importance of maintaining proper posture in the workplace. As innocent as they may seem, poor posture and sub-par ergonomics can lead to serious health problems over time. A big part of our mission is training people on how to prevent strain and burnout through correct working habits.
So— as more folks stay home and turn their living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens into impromptu workplaces, I wanted to provide a few tips on how to make sure you are observing best practices for posture and wellness.
Don’t work on the couch or bed, and use a table if you can
Sitting down with your laptop in your lap is fine for a short amount of time. But if you plan to work for more than a few minutes, your shoulders and neck will sag forward in this position causing fatigue and stiffness over time. It’s always best to place your laptop on a surface in front of you.
On a related note, the pitfalls of working from your bed will become immediately clear when your morning coffee wears off!
Keep a healthy posture when working on the computer
As a general rule, you want to set yourself up so that your back is straight and shoulders are pulled back from slouching forward. You should try to have the screen you look at be eye level to prevent your neck craning down. Your arms should be at your sides, with forearms held at a ninety degree angle to your spine.
Avoid having your wrists above your elbows, and if possible try to have them below. Your knees should be bent at ninety degrees as well, with your feet planted firmly on the ground. It is very helpful to sit in a chair with good back support.
These products can help you take at home ergonomics to the next level
Anything that makes it easier to hold the above posture are really important, and worth investing in for the home office. Here are two that we use in our office every day:
Back Support Pillow
Using a back pillow will make it so much easier to hold your spine in a healthy position without having to constantly readjust your posture. We like this one from Core Products: it’s inexpensive, effective and can be easily moved from one seat to another. As a bonus, it’s really great to use in the car as well.
Using a laptop stand helps keep your neck in the right position by raising the screen to eye level. Over time, hunching your neck down to look below your direct line of sight can cause serious problems with your shoulders, back and more. This stand from Amazon Basics will keep you honest without breaking the bank. If you use this product it is also worth investing in a remote keyboard that you can place flat on the desk, or better yet, slightly below the desk for easy resting of your arms and wrists.
Take microbreaks often— make the most of working from home!
The real killer in the workplace is not moving around as much as you should. To combat this, the most important thing you can do when working from anywhere is take microbreaks from working every hour or so. During this time, take two minutes to get up, stretch, walk around or anything else you can think of to give your muscles a break from their sedentary working positions.
When working from home you have an awesome opportunity to make the most of this time! Take a walk outside, do some light chores, or simply make yourself a nice cup of tea. Whatever you do make sure you move around.
If you want to know more about how we help people improve their workplace posture at home and in the office, check out our website here.