What a year it has been – it is almost hard to believe many have been working from home for that long. But even with all this time, have you figured out a good system? Or are you still treating it as a temporary make-do with what you have scenario? With more companies considering permanent full or part time work from home, it may be time to rethink your routines.
For most people that work from home, the amount of desk work has not changed significantly. So why are so many more people suffering from neck, back, shoulder and wrist complaints? Think about your day; are you getting up to move around? Or are you parked in your chair for 90% of the day? And how does this compare to when you were in your office- where you were much more likely to get up and visit a colleague at their desk, or perhaps walk to get lunch. Although working from home has allowed many an opportunity for work-life balance in their breaks and decreased commuting time, others have chosen to squeeze every possible minute of productivity into their day, sacrificing their usual movement.
Even the walk to go to a meeting provided a way to break up your day, compared to switching your window over to Teams or Zoom, or picking up your phone. The use of so much video conferencing has also added a challenge to work space creation. Trying to find somewhere quiet with a blank or professional background can be quite challenging, especially if others in the home. Although it may not be possible to replicate the perfect workstation setup from your office, there are some easy things you can do to improve it. This advice is no substitute for a full ergonomic assessment, and reflects general principles that apply for most of the population. The visual at the top of this post from the Canadian Chiropractic Association is also a good visual representation of some of these ideas.
- Use a chair that is able to change position, or change chairs throughout the day if you find your body fatigued. Slightly change the position of your head, arms, shoulders, back, hips and legs throughout the day.
- Have your keyboard in a position where your upper arms are able to hang, elbows are at about 90 degrees when you are typing, and wrists are relaxed in a natural position.
- Set your chair height so that your feet are able to rest on the floor. If this is not possible after adjusting for the precious two points, consider a foot rest.
- Your computer monitor should be set so the top of the monitor is at eye level and about 50cm away. If you work on a laptop- consider lifting it to the correct height and using an external keyboard. If the text is too hard to read at this distance, try increasing your font size!
- Consider a document holder to lift up books or paper to be at eye level rather than flat on the desk.
- Keep items that you use frequently throughout your day closest to you so they are easy to reach, with less frequently used items towards the edges of your workspace.
The use of video conferences throughout the day has lead to a new concern- Zoom fatigue. There has even been research into why exactly we feel so drained from using zoom. A research team from Stanford has found that the amount of close up eye contact, seeing your own image constantly on the screen, limited movement possible to remain in view of the camera, as well as higher cognitive load with translating in person body language to on screen. They also provide a number of tips in dealing with this – such as moving your monitor and camera further back to give yourself more room to work in, removing your own image from your zoom screen, as well as taking breaks from video- turn off your camera, turn away from the screen and just listen. No matter the type of computer work you are doing, it is important to take breaks for your eyes as well. An easy rule to remember is 20-20-20; for every 20 minutes of computer work, look at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
If you are looking for some more specific advice, reach out to your local chiropractor! They can discuss workstation changes, specific stretches or exercises for throughout your work day, or even do an assessment of your workspace. As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions!
Bailenson, J. N. (2021). Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of Zoom fatigue. Technology, Mind, and Behavior, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.1037/tmb0000030
Image via the Canadian Chiropractic Association