How to Make the Most of Your At-Home Workspace
By Dr. Molly Casey
Working from home for many is commonplace right now. It can be a blessing and/or a curse depending on the actual work you’re required to do, your workstyle, your home life, your mental approach to work, and your work station -- among a multitude of other factors. Many people are currently physically suffering because of the extra stress the at-home work stations are placing on their bodies. This article is designed to help you decrease physical stress of the new work-at-home lifestyle.
Even if you already have a current routine for at-home work, it doesn’t mean you can’t make shifts. Reading this through as if it is Day 1 of your at-home journey could be highly beneficial; evaluate where you’re at and work to create the best possible solution. Most people have some leeway of what they can do (and how) with the at-home workspace. Sometimes it takes a little bit of creative thinking and a willingness to see outside of the box. The point is, options are helpful. Here are some do’s and don’ts from the physical aspect.
What You Need to Know
Here’s what you can do to maximize your workspace opportunities.
Commit - Dedicate an actual space for your daily work station and put some time into setting it up. Your physical body needs the support of this entirely new work routine. You wouldn’t go to the gym full force or start training for a marathon without proper shoes, attire and accessories, would you? And if you did, your body would hate you, right? No different with this. You’re changing your physical routine extensively, so give your body the best support you possibly can so that it doesn’t respond with pain.
Choose wisely - Chances are, you have an option or two of where you can create this makeshift home office. The living room couch with feet up on the ottoman may seem quite appealing in terms of relaxation or comfort level, but it’s a very unhelpful choice in terms of supporting your physical body for eight hours a day.
Stage correctly - You need a proper platform to place your computer or paperwork on. This sounds simple, but you’d be amazed at how inviting the bed or couch is with some type of surface or tray to lay across the lap. The problem is that this is not supportive to the body. The easiest solution is an actual desk (it doesn’t need to be expensive), dining room or kitchen table, or the kitchen island or counter.
Comfort - Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean that your seat support can suffer without your spine and health suffering. If you have the ability to invest in that office chair you’ve had your eye on, do it. We don’t know when this is ending and you’re always better off supporting your body well now. One very inexpensive option I will discuss more below is the therapeutic stability ball.
Proper posture - It’s important to engage in correct posture while working in order to avoid the pain in the neck, shoulders, and back that is common with poor postural habits.
- Sitting - Keep feet flat on the floor and pretend you have a string at the top of your head and it is pulling you straight up. Practicing this idea of the string automatically brings one into a more solid and healthy posture. The natural curve to the low back is present, shoulder blades fall down and back, and this reverses the common forward shoulder roll; lastly, the eyes are brought forward and the head is in a neutral position. From this position, while sitting in your chair, you can decide if it would be helpful to have more low back support. If you do and you have a great chair, lean back and let it support that curve. If you don’t, gather some pillows and place them between you and the back of the chair. Please note that the stability ball I mentioned above naturally supports this full position. If used at a desk, it naturally requires you to be more aware of, and actively engaging in, proper posture.
- Desk or counter height - Approximately three to four inches beneath the point where your ribs curve and meet below the sternum/chest bone is where the desk surface should be while in the sitting position. The main thing is you want your forearms and wrists and elbows to be level when you’re typing on the keyboard. It is extremely important that it’s not too high, which causes your shoulders to slightly be scrunched up towards your ears. If you can’t choose the desk or counter height, you should change the seat height or stand to fit the guidelines.
- Level of screen - This is where it gets hairy. The screen of your computer should be at eye level. This means with a laptop, you’ll likely need to place it on a set of books or a specific stand. At that point it is ergonomically incorrect -- and severely so for the shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands. Purchasing an inexpensive keyboard to plug into the laptop would be extremely beneficial for your long-term health, how you feel, and ultimately your bank account.
- Paperwork - This is a great time to be standing -- even at the kitchen counter. It brings the paperwork much higher, which causes significantly less stress on the neck because you’re not looking down as much.
- Work on the phone - While reading, bring the cell phone up to eye level; when texting or composing email, do your best to first do what you can from your actual work station; if you must use the phone, hold it out in front of you instead of down near your chest or stomach.
Your choices on a momentary basis consequently add up and create the level of health or ill health you experience. Your spine houses and protects your nervous system. Your nervous system controls every aspect of your existence and health. Your workspace and work posture either promote and add to the health of your spine or they diminish it. You choose.
Chiropractors are essential workers helping people to stay healthy and out of the emergency rooms. The Joint Chiropractic chiropractors are working to help you move through this pandemic as safely as possible. Call or visit one of The Joint Chiropractic locations near you to let us know how we can help you stay as safe and as healthy as possible.
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