Does your body feel like it went through a vigorous work out after participating in virtual meetings all day? Is your neck and back sore from working on your computer?
Have you recently developed headaches since working from your home? Are you currently sitting on your couch reading this post on your laptop? If you answered yes to any of the above, then it’s time to talk about your at-home workstation.
Due to the pandemic, there has been an upsurge of injuries seen in physiotherapy clinics due to the sudden change of working environments. Many office workers left a cubicle with an ergonomic workstation to a makeshift home office. Sometimes this consisted of a couch office with a laptop on the lap or a kitchen table with easy access to the refrigerator. Needless to say, many people were forced to change their working environment with minimal guidance about how to create an ergonomic workstation. The result – increased injuries. The purpose of this post is to provide you with some tips to modify your workstation to reduce the risk of injury.
1. Examine your computer’s position
Take a look at your monitor, is it at eye level? If not, it would be ideal to raise your monitor to eye level. If you are working at a laptop computer, you may want to raise your laptop monitor to this level and attach an external keyboard and mouse. This can be done simply with some old text books that you no longer require or purchase a stand to support your laptop computer.
Speaking of keyboard and mouse, where are these positioned? With your shoulders relaxed, arms at your side, and your elbows bend to 90 degrees, your keyboard should be centred to your body. Your mouse should also be at this level. If you are suffering from pain from prolonged mouse usage, you may want to consider changing the sides of your mouse to the other arm. Bonus tip: you can also change the clicking fingers for the mouse in your mouse settings on the computer. If your keyboard is in a position where your elbows are not flexed at a 90 degree angle, you may want to consider purchasing a keyboard tray to attach to your tabletop or desk.
2. Adjust your chair
Look down; are you currently sitting on a portable folding chair or card table chair? You may want to reconsider your seat selection for those three hour virtual meetings. While you are seated in your chair, are your hips and knees bent to a 90 degree angle? If not, try lowering or raising yourself in the chair. Often, if you are shorter in stature, you may need to add a foot rest beneath your feet to achieve this ideal hip and knee angle. You can also add a rolled up towel behind your back as a lower back support. Most people have a bathroom towel to spare that will do the trick.
If you have an office chair, does your armchair have arm rests? If so, can you adjust them so you are able to rest your forearms on them while keeping your shoulders relaxed and at your side? Does your seat have a tilt feature? If your chair has a seat tilt feature, feel free to play around with the seat tilt throughout the day. This will change the position of your pelvis and keep your body moving through different positions so you are in one sustained posture all day.
Check out your seat depth. Ensure that you have a few finger breadths from the back of your knee to the seat edge. It is a good idea to avoid prolonged sustained pressures on the back of your knees.
3. Check on yourself and your workstation
The items that you use the most throughout the day should be within arms reach. This will avoid repetitive over reaching movements. For example, you may want to keep any cellular phones, stationary and paperwork frequently used within arms reach.
Finally the user: You. Ensure that you are getting up frequently throughout the day. It is a good idea to move around a few times throughout the hour. Go grab a glass of water. Stand up and reach over your head and behind your back a few times. Perform some shoulder and neck circles. Try not to sit in one position for many hours on end. We are creatures that thrive on movement.
If your body is feeling the long term effects of working at a desk or improper workstation, seek out a CAMPT certified physiotherapist who can assist you with some daily exercises to perform as well as provide additional and personalized workstation tips.
About Rachel Onishi
Rachel Onishi is a physiotherapist and an avid blogger. She enjoys putting a lighter touch on life’s daily challenges. She is a life long learner, which has lead her to become a CAMPT-certified physiotherapist. When she’s not at the clinic, you can catch her outdoors hiking in the trails, on the baseball diamond, or out on the slopes. Find out more about Rachel at ISM Rehab or on Instagram.