Thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing, working from home has become a bigger part of life than ever before.
For many of us, that has meant working from laptops and spending long hours at a “workstation” that is far from ideal. Kitchen tables, dining chairs, and even couches and beds have become places of work.
Most of these environments encourage you to hunch over and crane your neck towards your laptop. This position can take a toll on your neck. And even home offices, if not set up with care, can be rough on your body.
We’ve gathered some advice and simple tips you can easily execute to help you avoid neck pain and injury while working from home.
The ideal work from home station
Two of the most important things about your work station are your chair and your laptop (or desktop computer if you’re lucky). Here are a few ways to improve your setup.
An adjustable chair is ideal, and height is the most important type of adjustment. Adjusting height will help you find a position where you don’t need to hunch over.
If you can’t get an adjustable chair, grab some pillows for additional padding and roll up a towel to place near the lower back for lumbar support. Experiment with different chairs to find something that feels comfortable. If your feet don’t reach the ground, use a footrest or a stack of books for support.
Because they sit low, laptops can cause you to hunch over, slouch, crane your neck or assume many other positions that are bad for your neck.
The best thing you can do is to raise the screen you’re looking at. This will naturally encourage you to sit up and lift your head into a more healthy, neutral position.
If you have a monitor you can connect to, go for it. If not, you can put books, boxes or other flat objects under your laptop to boost it up. Using an external keyboard and mouse will help you to keep your arms at 90 degrees rather than having to lift your arms up in order to type on that raised laptop.
A few more do’s and don’ts
Don’t work from your couch or bed
The most healthy position for your neck and back is a neutral one – that is, one that is similar to when you are standing. Slumping into a couch or a bed is a far cry from that position, and it’s even worse than slouching in a chair. This kind of position can actually increase pressure on your spine up to 85 percent.
Don’t work for long hours without changing position.
About every 45 minutes, try to shift your position slightly. This will keep you from putting chronic stress on the exact same muscle groups all day long.
Do incorporate some movement into your day.
No, slightly shifting your position does not count as exercise! Make sure to take a break at some point (lunch is ideal) and get 15 to 30 minutes of light exercise. A short walk, or low intensity workouts like lunges, jumping jacks, body weight squats or wall push-ups. As a bonus, these exercises can strengthen your core and support your back, further reducing your risk of neck pain.
Do protect your wrists.
Aside from your neck and back, working from home can be tough on your wrists. In addition to keeping your arms at a relaxed 90 degrees when typing, try to avoid having your wrists directly contact the keyboard or laptop. Instead, use your palms as the main point of contact.
When to seek help
If you’re hurting or worried about your safety while working at home, it can always help to consult a physiotherapist. A physio can help you assess – based on your activity and office setup – what your problem might be and how best to resolve it.