Poor home workstations need to go!
Does this sound familiar? You previously commuted to an office on a regular basis where you had fairly decent workstations. Then the COVID pandemic hit, and you were told that you would have to work from home temporarily, so you plopped down your laptop on the dining room table and set up camp. Figured it wasn’t a big deal for a couple weeks, right? Well, fast forward 3 years, and many of us are still working from home in some capacity. But now that this new normal has been established, are you still trying to “get by” with a poor work station set up? Or maybe you have always worked from home, and just never took the time, money, or effort to set up the proper workstation that you need and deserve?
Enough already! It is time for an upgrade!
Dining room or kitchen tables are typically too high to be effective workstations and require your shoulders to hike up in order to type. By the end of the day your neck feels tight and crunchy, and you may even feel knots or burning sensations behind your shoulder blades. The neck tension can then lead to increased headaches.
Working from the couch seems comfy at first, but it is likely not supportive enough and can cause the lower back to round. Too much time in this slouched position leads to stiffness and pain. If bad enough, it can trigger nerve pain down the legs.
Here are some things to consider when trying to improve your home workstations:
A real desk and an adjustable, supportive desk chair will always be best. But even if you can just improve one part of your set up, it will still be better than nothing. For example, if you have no space for a desk, perhaps you could use a proper desk chair at the kitchen table. That way you could raise your chair higher so that your arms can sit lower, and your shoulders don’t have to hike up.
If you are going to make the investment in a new desk anyway, why not consider a sit/stand desk so that you have more options? Our bodies love to change positions. The good news is that desks are much easier to find these days compared to the desk shortage of the pandemic! There are now many reasonably priced options available from places like Costco, Wayfair, IKEA and Staples. While you are waiting for your desk to arrive you can always try spending some time standing with your laptop at your kitchen counter or island. It may not be perfect, but our bodies do appreciate variation of position now and then. Every little bit helps.
When choosing a desk chair, choose one that is as adjustable as possible (especially height!), with good back support and adjustable arm rests.
Once you get yourself a desk and office chair, how should you set it up?
This diagram offers some great tips:
Start by adjusting your seat height and angle so that your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Elbows resting down by your sides with forearms resting parallel to the floor. Hands are close to you and not reaching out. It is especially important to keep your mouse as close to you as possible so that you are primarily using your wrist to mouse instead of your shoulder. You may need to elevate your chair to keep your arms low with that 90 degree elbow bend. But then you may need a footrest so that you don’t have to keep pushing yourself back into your chair with your tip toes all day. A large shoebox or a few textbooks can work in a pinch.
Keep screens square in front of you. A screen that is slightly to one side leads to repetitive neck strain from constant head turning.
Screens should be high enough so that the top line of text on the screen is at your eye level. If you have a laptop, it is worthwhile to invest in a separate keyboard so that you can prop your laptop up on a riser or a stack of books in order to keep the screen at the correct height. Looking down at a laptop screen all day can cause increased neck tension and headaches.
Even with a perfect workstation setup, too much of anything is never good.
Our bodies are simply not designed to sit at a desk all day, no matter how good the ergonomics might be. This means we need to get up. And often! Let’s use all that technology around us to help us by setting regular reminders to get out of your chair for a minute or two. Ideally every 30-50 minutes. Go to the bathroom. Go get a glass of water. Step onto the porch for some fresh air. Do a stretch or two. Reach up overhead, Arch backward and look up. Lay flat on your bed or floor with your arms and legs out like a star. Or lay backward over a yoga ball and take some deep breaths. None of these things need to take very long. They are brief enough that they should not disrupt your workflow, but they do make a world of difference. This principal applies to days at the office as well!
This Valentine’s season, show yourself some love with a better home workstation. You deserve it!
If you have any further questions, our WVCWG chiropractors are happy to help. And of course, if you need some additional help undoing all that tension and poor posture, our team of chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists and acupuncturists are here for you!
Here is to happier typing!
Love, Dr. Janice