Working from home: Your guide to optimising your working space and improving your posture through the COVID-19 outbreak.
With coronavirus continuing to spread and lockdown being implemented across the country many people are having to work from home for the foreseeable future.
For some a home office is an option, for others you may be having to choose between working from the sofa, the bed, the kitchen table or even the floor. Maintaining a good posture and routine as you work from home will be essential in combating the stresses and strains that can arise from working in a compromised position.
Luckily there are many creative and cheap ways to alter your working from home set-up to make it more posture friendly. So here are 8 top tips on how to optimise your working space and improve your comfort when working from home.
Tip #1: Elevate your laptop
Wherever you are working from, be it the kitchen or dining room table, one of the most important things you can do is raise your laptop. Ideally the top of the screen should be raised to eye level. This can be done using a laptop stand or by using old books or boxes. Elevating your laptop screen will automatically cue you to lift your head and neck into an upright position. This will help in reducing the stress on the muscles on the back of your neck.
Tip #2: Use a separate keyboard and mouse
With your laptop screen higher, you may now find that your mouse and keyboard are too high, and your shoulders are elevated. For this reason, it is really worth investing in a separate full size keyboard and mouse. This will allow you to make quick and easy adjustments to your set-up. Ideally you want your keyboard in a position that allows your wrists to be straight and your hands to be at or below elbow height.
Tip #3: Change working positions
Staying in the same position throughout the day is not good for your body. Your back, legs, neck and arms can stiffen up quickly as a result of reduced mobility or poor posture. It is becoming more and more popular in the workplace to have adjustable desks that can be used in both standing and sitting positions. For a DIY standing desk, why not try using an ironing board? Do make sure that the ironing board can take the weight of your laptop and make-shift laptop stand. Another way to ensure you are changing working positions is to use phone calls as an opportunity to stand up and pace around your room.
Tip #4: Take regular breaks
It is very easy to get to the end of a working day and to have not moved from your computer when working from home. This is mainly because all of your meetings and phone calls will have taken place from your laptop. For this reason, it is a really good idea to take regular breaks from your work. Not only does it increase productivity, but it is also great for your body. One great tip is to set an alarm for every 30-45 minutes. Each time the alarm goes off this is a cue for you to take a quick 3-5-minute break. Stand up, have a stretch, go to the toilet or make yourself a cup of tea! Do something that will take you away from your computer screen. By doing this it also gives your eyes a rest and allows you to focus and reset your posture.
Tip #5: Look after your eyes
When it comes to looking after your eyes when working on a computer there are many aspects of your working from home set-up that you can adjust to reduce eye strain:
- Viewing Distance: Have your screen too close and it can strain your eyes, too far away and you may find yourself leaning in towards the screen, placing pressure on the muscles on the back of your neck. Ideally your screen should be around an arms distance away from you. For some, this might mean that you have to increase the type on the screen so that it is more comfortable to see.
- Watch out for glare: In order to combat screen glare it is advised to place your screen at a 90 degree angle from any external windows you are working near. For some this may not be possible If this is the case and if your computer has the option, try using a matte filter for your screen.
- Brightness: Your eyes have to work much harder when the screen is brighter than your surroundings. Pay attention to how the light changes around your work station throughout the day and adjust your external lights accordingly. This will help reduce the strain on your eyes.
Tip #6: Maintain good posture
In order to prevent any work-related aches and pains it is essential that you try to maintain good posture throughout the day. If you are sitting, ensure that your low back is supported. Also make sure that your neck is lifted long, your shoulders are relaxed and are not slumped forward or elevated to the ears. Ensure that equal pressure is placed through both feet and try not to cross your legs as this puts awkward twists and strains onto your low back and pelvis. If you are standing, make sure that your head, neck, torso and legs are all inline and vertical. Try not to slouch, lean or stand twisted to one side.
Tip #7: Modify your chair
The best chair to sit on at home is one that has a sturdy back support. In most cases this is likely to be a dining room chair. For those suffering from low back pain, roll up a small towel and place it at the bottom of your back to provide support for your low back.
Make sure your hips are placed towards the back of the chair and your feet are flat on the ground. If your feet are not touching the ground use a stool, some old books or a box to ensure your feet have a flat, sturdy surface to rest on. And finally, ensure that your hips are slightly higher than your knees. This can be achieved by placing a firm cushion on your chair.
Tip #8: Keep moving
Regular exercise is key in maintaining a healthy body and mind. With new laws enforced due to the COVID-19 outbreak, one form of exercise a day is permitted. Use this time to change settings from your work space. Go for a gentle run, walk or cycle, making sure to maintain your social distance.Or set up an exercise mat and participate in one of the many free online yoga and Pilates classes available. Maintaining movement is great for strengthening muscles, preventing joints and ligaments from stiffening up. It is also great for aiding blood flow around the body.