Working from home can be a pain in the neck — literally.
The antagonist? An improper workstation.
One week into the WFH routine, it’s more than likely that aches and pains are setting in and adjustments need to be made.
Like working on a laptop from the sofa or your bed.
“That’s bad,” said Emily Moody, a physical therapist and ergonomic specialist with Mutual of Omaha.
“It’s not always easy to work from home,” said Moody, who joins legions of Omahans doing just that in a coronavirus world.
“The most important thing to remember is to take frequent breaks. A good rule of thumb is to move for one minute every hour. Get up, stretch, take a deep breath.”
If the weather is good, you might even step outside and walk up and down your driveway for a few minutes.
“People who take regular, frequent breaks are more productive because their blood gets flowing and they feel better,” Moody said.
“What we worry about most is repetitive stress injuries at work. Taking micro-breaks is the most important thing you can do.”
Other tips from Moody for preventing eyestrain, repetitive stress injuries, backaches and more during what looks to be an extended period of working from home:
- Vary your work position. Don’t sit at the kitchen table all day; move your laptop to the kitchen counter and work standing up for a few hours. “Sitting is not good. Standing is better,” Moody said.
- Use the best chair available. If you don’t have an ergonomic office chair, opt for a sturdy armless chair from the kitchen or dining room table.
- Make sure to sit higher than the tabletop. Your arms should never reach up to your keyboard.
- Sit toward the back of your chair and give yourself good lumbar support by placing a small rolled towel or firm throw pillow between your lower back and the chair. Without this support, you’re asking for lower back pain.
- Position your desktop monitor at arm’s length and adjust the height so that when you are looking straight ahead, your eyes are level with the top of the monitor. If you’re experiencing dry eye, your monitor most likely is too high. “That causes you to tip your head back to view the screen and allow a lot of light and air into your eyes, causing dryness,” Moody said. “You want your gaze to fall down on your screen so your eyes close a little bit. Just like when you read a book.”
- If you work from a laptop, refrain from using the built-in keyboard. Opt for an ergonomically designed wireless external keyboard and mouse, and place your laptop on a stack of books, high enough so your eyes are level with the top of the monitor. Neck pain can develop from any screen that’s too high or too low.
- Avoid resting your wrists on a hard surface as you type. Use a gel pad and keep your wrists relaxed and at an incline on the keyboard to prevent compressing the nerves, which can lead to numbness and tingling in your fingers and arms.
- When you’re teleconferencing, use a headset or Bluetooth speaker. “Don’t cradle the phone between your ear and shoulder,” Moody said. “Cradling is a neck issue waiting to happen.”
- Work in a well-lit area, but avoid looking directly into a window with light streaming in. It may feel good on your face, but it can lead to eyestrain.