Blog Post by Emma Reid (Physiotherapist)
Recent events in Western Australia have reminded us all how quickly our working, social and exercise life can change. Often with little warning we are told we need to work from home or potentially from a different desk or office. Often clients tell me how they end up working more hours from home and often get a lot more sore sitting at their desk for extended periods. If your desk set up isn’t ideal for your body then it can lead to muscle tension, headaches and back pain. Sometimes altering our work set up at home istn as easy as when we are at work, however, if you are able to, below I have outlined my top 6 tips to optimise your work space for your body.
1. Foot position
Your chair needs to be low enough that when you sit comfortably your feet rest fully on the floor. If you find that this isn’t possible with the set up you have at home after going through the rest of the tips, footrests can be really useful to bring the floor up to your feet. This can help to keep your weight even through your feet and stop you twisting your body off at odd angles for long periods during the day. It also helps you keep a better eye on what your back and neck posture is doing as you get more feedback from the ground beneath your feet.
2. Hips higher than knees
Once your feet are flat on the floor, ensure that your chair is at a height where your knees are lower than your hips. Having your hips higher than your knees means that they will be less flexed (bent). Having your hips bent for long periods can result in the muscle around the hip joint becoming stiff and sore. Keeping the hip joint in a more neutral position when sitting means the muscles are in less extreme positions and shouldn’t result in as much stiffness and pain.
3. Butt back in the chair
When sitting in your work chair, ensure it has a high back (ideally not a stool), and that when you sit down, your butt is sat as far back in the seat as possible. This will allow you to keep you back from slouching, without having to actively sit upright the whole day. Reducing your slouching also means you put less pressure on your tailbone and can avoid developing tailbone pain towards the end of a long work day.
4. Elbows on the desk
Now that you are seated with your legs in a more comfortable position, let’s look at the arms. When you put your hands on the desk/keyboard, you shouldn’t have to raise your shoulders at all to hold them there comfortably. So you might need to lower your desk or raise your chair to ensure this doesn’t happen.
5.Screen at eye level
Now that your arms and legs are positioned take note of your head and neck position in relation to your screen. Ideally, your eyes should be level with the middle of your screen. This is to avoid the forward lean and eventual upper back hunch that happens as you get deeper into your day. This is difficult to do with laptops and when working at home. 1 way to help is to put books or a computer stand under your monitor to raise it up to a suitable height. If you work from a laptop, using a laptop stand (or homemade equivalent) alongside a separate keyboard and mouse can fix this problem for you.
6. Stand up regularly
The last point is one we hear a lot of. Standing up and walking around regularly. Something I always tell my clients is that our body was not built to be stationary for hours on end, it was designed to move. Lots of people these days have smart watches that tell them when they have been sat still for too long but if you don’t have something like that, setting an alarm on your phone every 30-40 minutes does the trick (especially if you’re working at home).
7. Multiple screens
If you are unable to move your legs around to look at the other screen properly – ensure you work as much as possible on the screen you can have the best posture for.