10 tips to improve your posture when working from home (WFH)
Working from home (WFH) has become a way of life for so many of us in the wake of COVID-19, and if you are in this boat, you may be noticing (and appreciating) the many perks that come with this – extra time to exercise in the mornings, no peak hour commute, more time to hang out with your fur babies/newest WFH colleagues, and wearing tracksuit bottoms to meetings is now totally acceptable. But amongst the perks, you may also be noticing new aches and pains you didn’t have before at the office, and it could be related to your work station at home.
Working long hours at home without regular office equipment such as standing desks, adjustable chairs, dedicated workstations, ergonomic chairs, and large monitors at optimal viewing height may be impacting your overall posture, and adding pressure or strain to your back. Some of us may not have the space to set up a home office, instead finding ourselves working from a kitchen counter, lounge chair or bed. Without the ergonomic support of these office luxuries at home, chances are your posture and back may be suffering.
Practicing better posture habits and making a few slight modifications to your work from home set-up can make all the difference to our physical and mental wellbeing, so our pharmacists have come up with 10 tips that may help you when working from home.
1. Practice perfect posture
maintain a symmetrical body position with a gentle sway in your back, elbows bent at 90 degrees, and knees bent at 90 degrees with feet flat on floor. Position chin parallel to ground, draw chin back and tuck slightly and open your shoulders. Avoid crossing your legs, leaning over or twisting your body.
2. Position your screen
Position your screen at eye level, using a laptop stand or books to prop it up to avoid looking down or twisting your neck to the side. Avoid direct light hitting your screen, or working with your back to a window as the light pouring in is likely to cause glare on your screen which may result in visual strain to your eyes or partial retinal adaptation*. You might find it helpful to add a lamp to your desk or use blinds to control the direction of sunlight.
3. Invest in a mouse and keyboard
If working on a laptop, it’s difficult to maintain correct posture without these additions to aid in mobility. Your forearms and hands should be level and straight, with your arm close to the side of your body when you use a mouse.
4. Get up, stand up
Break the monotony of sitting by remembering to stand up every 20-30 minutes, while you make or take phone calls, or to get regular cups of water or tea. Doing this regularly pulls you out of a static position and gets your muscles and joints moving. Putting a trigger in place may help remind you to move regularly, like an alarm.
5. Lumbar roll
For chairs that don’t have lower back support, it’s crucial to support your lumbar spine (the lower part of your spine) with cushioning, which can aid in preventing fatigue1. A lumbar roll, cushion or rolled up towel could be a useful addition to assist in this and help maintain the natural curves in the back.
6. The wrist rest test
Bit of a tongue twister, but a good reminder to avoid using a wrist rest like the soft squishy ones you sometimes see on a desk. Although they look like they provide support, placing anything beneath your wrist can add compression on the finger flexor tendons and on the median nerve, increasing the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome*. This can feel like a tingling feeling, pins and needles, numbness, or sometimes pain in the hand and forearm2.
7. Feet first
When sitting, rest your feet flat on either the floor or propped up on a foot support. Having an adjustable chair you can move up and down is helpful. If not, you might find things around the house like books, shoeboxes, Tupperware or cushions that could double as a footrest if your feet don’t touch the floor. Pulling your feet back underneath the chair, crossing your legs, or letting your feet dangle puts pressure under the thighs, restricting blood flow to your lower legs and causing poor circulation.
8. Leave bed for bedtime
Although it might feel comfy at first, working from your bed is likely to have you hunching over or tilting your head and neck down to view the screen resting on your lap.
9. Download a Posture app
Yes, there really is apps for everything these days. There’s a number of apps you can download that provide tips to help maintain good posture.
10. Give yourself a break
Take regular breaks to stretch using some of the handy exercises available here.
As weeks turn into months of remotely working (and possibly more if WFH becomes the new norm for some businesses), use the extra time you have up your sleeve each day to consider how you can change your habits and home office set up to support your posture and back.
At TerryWhite Chemmart, we are here to help reduce the risk of back pain with helpful advice and recommendations. Speak to one of our friendly pharmacists today about what you could be doing to better manage any back pain you are experiencing. For more info and tips on good posture practices, and managing back pain click here.
General advice only – this information should not replace the information provided to you by your health care professional. If symptoms are severe or persist, please speak to your health care professional. Information current as of date of publishing.
Always check with your pharmacist or medical professional before starting any new medications or supplements, particularly if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, are taking any medications currently, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or researching therapies suitable for infants or children.