Coronavirus or COVID-19 is impacting on all of our lives in different ways, but for so many of us who are able to do jobs that are largely computer-based and online, we are shifting to working from home as a new normal. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we have the right set up to do so or we will suffer the consequences. Check out these tips to avoid bad posture when working from home.
 
I regularly have patients reporting in with back pain. In many cases, the main cause of their symptoms has been from working at their desk for 8 hours and sitting in a bad position. Unfortunately, if you work at a PC all day it is likely that at some point in your working week you will feel a stiffness or discomfort in your lower back and/or in between your shoulder blades. When we are under stress to meet deadlines and perform to our best capabilities, we often don’t think about our posture when sitting and typing away, replying to emails and working on presentations and spreadsheets.
 

Here are a few ideas to think about when sitting at your desk, which may help to improve your posture and reduce the possibility of back and shoulder symptoms presenting themselves:

  1. Set your chair height to allow your feet to be flat on the floor or on a foot rest
  2. Ensure your chair has a full length back to ensure appropriate support to your lumbar curve
  3. Make sure there is adequate clearance between the desk and your thighs and that your thighs are at a 100-120 degree angle from your upper body
  4. When sitting normally, shoulders should be relaxed, with elbows at 90 degrees when your hands are on the keyboard
  5. Your wrists should be horizontal or around a 20 degree backward tilt with mid forearms supported on the table
  6. Set your screen so it’s directly in front of you, approximately arm’s length away
  7. Position the top third of the screen so it is at eye level
If you follow the above pointers, it should have a positive impact and limit the potential for back and shoulder injuries/discomfort, while reducing the likelihood of injuries in your neck and arms too.
 

That’s your work station set-up covered, but the following tips also offer some general advice for your working environment that many patients have benefitted from:

  1. Try to avoid prolonged sitting, especially when you’re getting tired
  2. When sitting at your desk, try to replicate the same upper body posture that you would adopt if you were standing i.e. upright
  3. Studies have shown that people cannot sit properly for more than 20 minutes. – Take regular breaks from your desk and get up and walk around every half hour
  4. Sit back in your chair and use the back as a support and let the chair do the work when rotating from side to side
  5. Make sure you have enough work space for your needs (a cluttered desk is no good for anybody!) and have a distinct separation between your computer and written work station, and use them
  6. If typing from notes a document holder can help to avoid looking up and down too frequently
  7. Your mouse should be in easy reach at all times and you might find a gel wrist cushion will add further support

Most large companies have an occupational health professional/team/department that will assess your work set-up at home through a series of questions or a conversation or by providing a guide. If you are in doubt about your working from home set-up, contact your employer for assistance. It could well help prevent back issues down the track.