Working from home looks like it’s here to stay and it looks likely that it will become our ‘new normal’ (most over used phrase of the year….!).
As Osteopaths, we have been helping people across Stockport, Manchester and Cheshire, to get the best out of working from home and preventing common tension patterns that can result.
We want to help you too.
Working from home has its advantages and often brings greater flexibility but beware of the pit falls. Working longer hours, spending more time chained to the desk (or worse working on the sofa on in bed!!!) and not getting a walk out at lunch to grab that much needed coffee.
Working from home can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle with poorer working postures, if you aren’t careful.
As osteopaths (Stockport, Greater Manchester and Cheshire), we have seen a lot more patients complaining of low back pain, headaches, neck and shoulder tension since people shifted to working from home. Poor desk set up, stress and lack of access to a suitable working environment are big factors.
So what can you do to get the best working from home set up, when you might not have access to the same equipment you do in the office?
Here are our 5 top tips on desk set up, working environment, keeping active and some handy products, which can maximise your working from home experience.
1) Getting your desk set up right when working from home:
Golden rule – Your workstation (where ever that is) adapts to you and not the other way around. (see gallery in ‘environment’ section for examples)
• If you are going to be working from home longer term then you will need to think about investing in a proper desk and adjustable chair. Speak to your employer to see if they can help with the cost of this.
• If working at the dining room table the same principles of workstation set up apply. If your ‘desk’ is too low – then raise it up with books or raisers to get it to the right height for you. If your ‘desk’ is too low – adjust your seating position so you’re raised up.
This can be done with an adjustable chair, raisers on the feet of the chair or sitting on cushions. Ensure your feet are still flat on the floor. This may require resting them on a box/pile / books/foot support.
• Kitchen worktop: These can work well as a standing desk option, for short periods or to ad variety to your days
• Even a coffee table can be adapted as a temporary workstation. Sit cross legged on the floor if you can with a cushion for comfort. Follow all the same guidance on table height, angle at the elbows, distance of eye from screen etc.
• You could try using a gym / swiss ball as a seat instead of a traditional chair. This encourages ‘active sitting’. So even when you are sat still you are still constantly adjusting your balance, moving and using your core muscles.
• Mix it up – switch between different workstations during the day (as examples given above). This means you aren’t always stressing the same parts of your body.
• AVOID; working in / on your bed or on the sofa.
If you need more specific help and live in Stockport, Greater Manchester and Cheshire, we would be happy to help. Call us for a chat and we can tailor our advice so it’s right for you.
2) Routine is essential when working from home :
This is really important both physically and mentally when working from home. There can be a temptation to do too much or get easily distracted with other tasks.
• Wake up at a regular time and set yourself a fixed time to start and finish work.
• Get dressed. Establishing the right mindset for work is important too.
• Set times for breaks and a lunch break. Try to go outside for some / all of these breaks.
• Stop working at least 2 hours before bedtime
• Set alarms or timers for scheduled start, finish times and breaks (including the length of the break).
• AVOID – not stopping for lunch / breaks, eating at your desk, working in the bedroom if possible.
3) Your environment – switch it up
• Change the room you work in / where you work occasionally if you can. You could work in the kitchen at the counter top, your office, dining room, living room, outside (weather/season permitting)
• Have separate sleep and work areas if possible. Working in your bedroom can lead to problems with sleep.
• Print out different images / scenes from a place you love, a holiday, natural environment and put them up on the walls where you work. Switch and change them regularly so your environment feels ‘fresh’
• Make sure it is well lit, free from distractions (such as TV) or the main hub of a family home and well ventilated with fresh air.
Some examples of shifting up your work station:
4) Keeping active when working from home:
This is even more important when at home. When in the office you probably walked to the station or from the carpark to the office, walked out to grab a sandwich at lunch, walked across the office to speak to someone. These micro breaks of activity need more thought and effort now to work them into your routine.
• Commute: Do you usually commute to work? Schedule a ‘commute’ into your day so allow 20 -30 mins at the start or end of you day, when you would normally be traveling to work, to go for a walk / run/ do some yoga. You can still start work at the same time you’d normally be in the office.
• Changing position and work environment will help so you are not putting the same stains on the same parts of your body each time
• Using adaptions to give you a standing desk option will help / working at the kitchen counter
• Stand up and walk about when on phone calls. Even get yourself set up so you can stand for zoom calls/virtual meetings
• Micro movements: When making a drink, try doing a few squats/star jumps while you wait for the kettle or after each time you visit the bathroom.
• Loo break: Have more than one bathroom? Use the one furthest away from you • Each break time go up and down stairs 3 or 4 times (if you have them) • Go out for a walk at lunchtime.
• Stretch during your breaks from your desk (see separate sheets for tips and ideas on this)
If you are struggling to get active because you are in pain, you could be stuck in a vicious cycle. Our osteopaths are experts in getting you moving and pain free. If you are based in Stockport, Cheshire or Greater Manchester, we would love to help you. Book Now.
5) Relaxation and time to switch off, is vital when working form home
Don’t forget to look after yourself.
• Stop working at least 2 hours before bedtime
• Make sure you have physical and mental space from your daily work, in your evenings/days off. Go into a different room if possible, read a book, watch something funny, go for a walk, do some yoga/go for a run, call a friend – whatever you enjoy and distracts your mind away from work.
As osteopaths, based in Stockport and helping people across Greater Manchester and Cheshire, we know that working from home / at a desk can be a common cause of headaches, back pain and stiffness. You don’t need to struggle on in pain, we can help – find out how:
Useful equipment: We are happy to advise on the right equipment that would be most suitable for you.
• Gym balls/ Swiss balls
• Separate keyboard if using a laptop
• Break software – apps such as ‘move’ can be set up to schedule breaks. They will actually freeze what you are doing and enforce a scheduled, break to a pre-set time. Other similar apps are available.
• Desk raisers – for adapting your desk to be a sit stand desk
• Laptop raisers – to be used with a separate keyboard, to enable you to raise your laptop screen so it is at eye level
• Adjustable foot rests – so you can keep your feet in contact with ‘the floor’ when sat correctly in your chair, if you are on the petite side!
• Desk / chair leg raiser – blocks that slot under the feet on your desk / chair to elevate it to the correct height for you
• Wedge cushions
• Lumbar supports
• Vertical mouse – keeps the wrist position more neutral
Not sure what you need? Don’t want to spend a fortune? Our osteopaths, based in Stockport, Greater Manchester and Cheshire will be happy to give bespoke advice to get the right set up for you.