How to maintain good posture while home office

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How can we ensure we survive our new home office arrangements without ruining our backs?  Business Optimizer considers the ergonomics of working from home.

Much has been said about the effect that the sudden need to work from home engendered by the COVD-19 crisis on our mental health.  But for those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home, it’s worth also considering the potential impact on our bodies too.

Why does ergonomics matter?

The workplace is covered by health and safety legislation that requires employers to provide a suitable workspace for us.  In this sudden rush to work at home, employers don’t have the same oversight – so we need to take some time for ourselves to consider the appropriateness of our home office arrangements.

What are the effects of poor ergonomics?

Spending time in a static position, sat at the computer for example, can cause repetitive strain injuries (RSI). 

RSI can be experienced in a number of ways but tends to be characterized by burning, aching or shooting pains in the finers, hands, forearms, neck, shoulders and lower back.  Weakness or numbness in the hands is another common indicator, while some experience difficulty opening or closing hands and fingers with associated stiffness or clumsiness.

How can we avoid RSI?

The best ways to avoid symptoms of repetitive strain injury include:

  • ensure your workplace has been optimized for comfort with good ergonomics
  • pay attention to your posture
  • change positions regularly
  • take frequent rest breaks where you walk around and stretch

How to I keep a good posture at your desk?

There are a number of steps you should take to ensure good ergonomics at your desk:

  • use a comfortable chair that is the right height for your desk (your wrists should be straight)
  • center the monitor and keyboard in front of you, with the screen positioned at eye level
  • sit back in the chair with your feet flat on the floor (if your feet can’t be flat on the floor, use a stable footrest)
  • Use a soft touch on the keyboard (don’t pound the keys!)
  • Try to decrease the glare on the screen, if you can, to give your eyes rest too.

Is it worth investing in special ergonomic furniture?

Standing desks have been touted as a healthier alternative to sitting at a desk all day.  However, there is little evidence a standing desk can help with weight loss or to support the other health claims associated with them

Nevertheless, if you find it uncomfortable to sit all day, there is no reason why you shouldn’t give a standing desk a try, since standing may reduce the risk of shoulder and back pain.

Another option for those who suffer from lower back pain is the kneeling chair.  This helps to develop good posture and alleviates pressure on the lower back.  However, a kneeling chair does restrict leg movements, leading some to warn about the risk of thrombosis. 

Why take a break is important?

This makes it even more important to make sure you are taking regular breaks and stretching throughout the day.  If you have space, it may be more beneficial to vary between sitting and standing at your desk and between a normal chair and a kneeling chair throughout the day – after all, a change is as good as a rest.

How often should I take breaks?

Experts recommend you take a one- to two-minute micro-break every fifteen minutes, with a longer break of around five to ten minutes every hour.  Use this time wisely – to stretch and walk around a little.  During longer breaks, you can give your mind a refresh too by indulging in a little yoga and meditation.

We know these are challenging times (to say the least), but more than ever, it’s essential to keep our health in good shape, and that includes our backs too! So, don’t forget to keep your spirit high and your back straight!