Are you currently working from home? Whether it is a temporary desk station you’ve had to throw together through the stay at home orders, or you have been working from home for a while in a home office, here are some tips and tricks to help keep your body healthy and reduce the chance of injuries.
Choosing Your Space
If you don’t already have a home office setup, here are a few things to keep in mind when picking your space:
- Privacy – Try to choose a space that your work won’t be interrupted (or if you have kids like me–in a room with a door that can lock)
- Lighting – If you have the choice, try to pick a spot that either has good natural lighting like a window or good enough overhead lighting so that you will not strain your eyes. Straining your eyes can lead to headaches. If needed bring in an extra lamp to help.
- Access to power/internet – Pick a space that is close to a outlet or internet access. If you must use a cord, be mindful of it being a tripping hazard, try to put your computer near the outlet so you or a family member does not have to walk over the cord.
Tip: Avoid sitting on your bed or couch. It often leads to forward head posture included rounding out your spine which can lead to strain and pain.
Desktop computers are the best since the monitor is separate from the keyboard. However, if you have a laptop, you can purchase a separate keyboard and mouse or purchase a monitor that can be mounted to help with proper ergonomics.
Laptops tend to be narrower, which can pull your shoulders forward and inward which may lead to neck, shoulder and upper back strain. Therefore, getting a separate keyboard can keep your chest open and upright creating better posture.
When seated, elbows should be rested down at your side and bent to 90-degree angles.
- Should be directly in front of you and the top 1/3 of the screen should be close to eye level.
- The monitor should also be anywhere from 18-28 inches away from your nose depending on the screen size and how well you can see.
Tip: If you are doing mostly typing or use a mouse, keep your keyboard and monitor closest to you with your work materials to the side. This way you can prevent reaching your arms too far forward or leaning forward to read the screen which both can lead to shoulder, neck and back problems.
- Research recommends 25-30 inches depending on how tall you are.
- If it feels too short–use risers under the desk/table legs if possible
- If it feels too tall–get a higher chair and use a stool or small box to put your feet flat on.
- An adjustable office style chair is preferable
- When seated your feet should be flat on the floor and knees should be at a 90 deg angle. If your feet are dangling, use a box stool or stack of large books to put your feet on.
- Depth-should have a space between the back of your knee and seat of about 2-3 inches
- Your low back curvature is called lordosis and this curve should be supported with a lumbar roll, small pillow or rolled up towel/blanket
- Back rest should be upright with slight backward lean of <10 degrees.
- If you have arm rests, they should be adjusted so that your forearms are supported with your elbows bent to 90-degree angles and your shoulders should be able to relax.
In general (everybody is built differently):
- Low back should have slight forward curve
- Shoulders should be lined up over your hips
- Your ears should be lined up over your shoulders
- Try to sit up tall and upright (pretend as if you were a puppet and your puppet master pulled up on the strings)
Sitting vs Standing desk stations?
Most experts agree that spending time, both, sitting and standing is the healthiest for your body. As I tell all of my patients, your body isn’t meant to be in 1 position all day long. Therefore, if you can get an adjustable workstation so that you can sit part of the time and stand the other part, your body will be happiest.
Whether you are sitting or standing, try to stick to the 30:30 rule: Every 30 minutes do the opposite position/posture for 30 seconds to give your body a break.
Most people when they get working, forget to stretch, so it can be helpful to set alarms or put up a sticky note on your desk to get up and walk for a bit.
Try to get movement in your day whether it’s your preferred exercise method such as yoga, cross fit, running, biking, hiking, or just walking through your house or yard frequently. You will hear PTs say the phrase “Motion is Lotion” because moving helps to keep your muscles working and flexible as well as keeping your joints lubricated, not to mention all the benefits for your internal organs and brain!
We are here for you! Let us know if you have questions, pain or limitations or even need ideas for your home office and maintaining an active lifestyle. We are currently offering in person visits and telehealth/virtual visits.
We are in this together!
–Tara Rinard, DPT, CLT