Working Safely from Home
It has almost been one year since the pandemic turned our lives upside down. Many people were forced to trade in their commute, work attire and office for a stroll to the kitchen counter in pajamas with a laptop in tow. And if the kitchen counter gets uncomfortable, then the couch or bed is only one room away! Working from home most definitely has its perks, but long term effects of poor posture and ergonomics can lead to chronic neck and/or back pain which can make it much more difficult to focus and be productive. Since working from home is not going away anytime soon, it is important to be mindful of the places in which you work and how they affect your posture.
Posture is simply the position in which a person holds their body when standing, sitting or lying down. Most people are not acutely aware of their posture and only realize that they have been putting unnecessary strain on their joints, muscles or ligaments when they start having pain. When working at home, people are typically slouching or bending forward at the waist for prolonged periods of time which strains the postural back muscles and can lead to injury and pain.
There are optimal ways to sit, stand and lie down. Understanding this information can help you work in a variety of different places in your home and still maintain proper posture to avoid developing chronic neck or low back pain.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor. If you are unable to reach the floor, then create a foot rest using a stable object
- Sit against the back of a chair to maintain the optimal curvature of your spine. This entails sitting up straight and avoiding slouching or bending forwards. If you are sitting on a couch or bed, prop pillows behind you so that you can maintain proper alignment
- Keep your screen at eye level to avoid straining your neck or your eyes
- Standing straight with your shoulders back
- Bear weight primarily on the balls of your feet
- Keep wrists straight and parallel to desk or counter surface
When you find yourself wanting to work from bed, consider the following recommendations:
- Sit as upright as possible. Prop yourself up with pillows or use a lumbar support pillow if other pillows do not work
- Use a lap desk or laptop tray to keep your forearms and wrists in a neutral position
- Put a pillow underneath your knees to keep them slightly bent to avoid putting extra strain on your lower back
Most importantly, avoid being in one position for too long. Take breaks throughout the day to walk, stretch and breathe. Give yourself time to reflect daily on how your body feels and what modifications you may need to make to your work space and posture to maintain a healthy and pain free neck and back.