Since the first lockdown I have seen more people than normal who have neck and shoulder pain. This is partly due to stress and partly because they are working on laptops slumped on the settee. So, let’s have a look at the ideal office setup – you may not be able to make all the changes but let’s see if we can get you off the sofa.
According to WebMD you should first look at your seat. When you sit on your chair, your legs should be level or slightly lower than your seat and both feet flat on the floor – not up in front of you on the pouffe! If you can’t get your feet on the floor because the chair is too high and isn’t adjustable, put a block of some kind under your feet.
Your spine should be in line with the back of your chair, at about 110-degree angle – not the 160-degree that you have when you are laid in bed or on the sofa!
Right, so now you’ve got your seat sorted, let’s have a look at monitors. Using your laptop on your lap for long periods of time puts pressure on the cervical vertebrae at the top your neck, this can trigger headaches and pain in your back and neck.
If you are using a laptop invest in a separate keyboard and mouse, this then allows you to raise the laptop up. You can buy a laptop stand to lift the screen, or you can do what I do and get a couple of rather thick books and stand it on there. There’s probably a good reason I shouldn’t do that but I’m from Yorkshire and don’t like spending unnecessary money, although I have got a separate keyboard and mouse!!
Try to have the monitor centred in front of you and an arm’s length away, this will help with neck and eye strain. The top of the monitor should be around 2 to 3 inches above your eye level.
Typing with your arms at the right height is important, with a separate keyboard and mouse this is easier to achieve. If you’ve been experiencing any numbness and/or pain in your wrists, arms and/or shoulders it could be that your keyboard is too high, and you are creating stress on your joints. Ideally your keyboard should be slightly lower than your elbows allowing your arms to be slightly angled downwards.
So that’s your quick overview of the ideal workstation. And remember, even though you’re working from home, your employer still has a duty of care. The Health and Safety Executive has some excellent resources for you to find out more information.
But positioning isn’t the full story. A lot of clients tell me that they’re spending more hours on their laptops at home than they would in the office. Why’s this? Well, they’re not getting up to consult with colleagues or having a ‘water cooler’ moment on the way back from the loo.
I know how easy it is to get sucked into your work and the next time you look at the clock three hours have passed - but you have to move regularly!
Take shorter breaks more regularly – 5/10 minutes every hour rather than 20 minutes every couple of hours. Set a reminder on your phone to go off at regular intervals – then you’ve got no excuse for forgetting to move.
What should you do during your break? Well, you can walk to the sink and top up your glass of water because you do not want to become dehydrated!
You can walk up and down stairs a couple of times or have a dance around your room.
Stand and stretch, stretching feels so good, that’s why cats and dogs do it every time they get up.
But do you know how to stretch? Most of us just do a quick movement but for an effective static stretch you should hold the position for at least 20 seconds AND you should never overstretch and cause yourself pain.
When I’m working with clients or sat at the computer, I like to do simple shoulder rolls - slowly bring your shoulders up towards your ears, take your shoulders backwards and down and then forwards and back up - basically big circles to the count of 10. Do a couple of rounds clockwise and then reverse.
Also shoulder shrugs – they’re very easy and relaxing - squeeze your shoulders up to your ears, count to five and let your shoulders drop back down.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) has some great exercises on their website for homeworkers, including downloadable screensavers to remind you how to do them! Just remember do them all slowly, hold for a least 20 seconds and don’t hurt yourself by overstretching.
And my training school, Jing Massage, have some fab self-care resources – from meditation and mindfulness to stretches for all the parts that hurt!
I hope this has all been helpful and remember, you don’t have to be working at home to do the exercises. A lot of us (me included) are spending longer than normal sat reading or watching tv, so it’s just as important that we also keep moving. Until the next time – keeeep moving!
If you’d like to look at the resources I’ve used, these are the links: