Healthy posture is important to prevent muscle soreness and common neck, shoulder and back problems. Healthy posture also improves breathing, increases energy throughout the day, improves concentration and balance, and boosts confidence. As we all adapt to this ever changing work environment, we wanted to offer some tips for those people who are new to working at home. We will discuss some general physical therapy considerations to help make being in front of a computer more comfortable.
Working from Home Tips
Keep your monitor at eye level and directly in front of the chair. Many people work with two or more monitors, even when at home, and you want to make sure to keep your chair positioned in front of the monitor that you are currently working on. Continually twisting either your body or your neck back and forth will cause issues in your neck, mid back and low back. When working with a laptop that cannot be adjusted to eye level, work with what you have at home. This may require placing several books or a box under your computer in order to maintain eye level.
It is important to pay attention to your keyboard as well, making sure that is it directly in front of you and parallel to or slightly below elbow level. The keyboard should be closer to minimize the amount of reach you have to do. Wrist position should be neutral and fingers should be relaxed. Having a separate keyboard and mouse is essential when working for an extended period on a laptop. The mouse should also be positioned to minimize reach and extension of your elbow and shoulder.
Sit in a chair with adequate back support. If you do not have an office chair at home, for additional back support use a rolled up towel and place it in the small of your back. When choosing a chair, you want to find one where you can maintain your hips slightly higher than your knees. Make sure that your feet are touching the ground, or use a footstool or box if your feet do not reach the ground.
As mentioned earlier, the best posture for your neck is to have your computer at eye level, however we all need a break from that office or kitchen table every now and then. If you are working on the couch, pay attention to your posture. Try putting a pillow or two both behind your back and under your laptop in order to maintain a neutral posture. Prop your computer up as high as possible in order to minimize the amount you have to look down. This position however should only be used for short periods of time, as it is the most likely to cause discomfort when used for extended periods of time.
Use a Standing Desk
Alternatively, if you have the space to do so, set up a standing desk. The same concepts apply for the positioning of the computer screen, keyboard and mouse. Ideally, the table height should be at or just below elbow level. When standing, your knees, hips, spine, shoulders and ears should fall in line with each other. Make sure to also put equal weight through both legs. Pay attention to the shoes that you are wearing as well and make sure that they are comfortable to stand in, avoid wearing your slippers. Keep your shoulders relaxed and wrist and hands in line and parallel with the floor. Get creative with your space at home. Look for everyday objects that you can use to help set yourself up for success. My standing desk at home is made with our dining room table, a crate and my daughter’s lap drawing table.
Changing positions throughout the day helps to minimize the stress on a particular joint, instead spreading out the load that each has to sustain. Change your workspace position every 1-2 hours. Also use this time to stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle at your work space and every hour, when you get up to walk around or change positions make sure that you have had at least 8 ounces of water.
Keep your muscles loose by taking standing or walking breaks every 30-45 minutes. Set an alarm on your phone if you need a reminder. When possible, give your eyes a rest by looking away from your computer every 20 minutes and focusing on a distant object.
If you need help setting up your work space at home let us know! We are here to help. We can offer a consultation and ergonomic assessment of your space. Additionally we can provide guidance on stretches and strengthening exercises to assist with your posture.