The number of people working from home has increased significantly due to COVID-19, which has resulted in an increase in postural related aches and pains for many.
We have compiled a few tips to help create the ideal desk space using objects from around the house.
1. Pick the right desk surface
Finding the right surface is a great start to creating a comfortable working environment.
Ideally sitting at a desk is the best option – bonus points for a stand-up desk – and it may be worth investing in one if you’ll be working at home for an extended period.
If this is not an option, then you need a hard surface (sorry, no more sitting on the couch with your laptop on your legs).
Choose a surface where you can rest your forearms at about 90 degrees comfortably and your feet firmly on the ground, such as a kitchen table or side table. If your table is too high try using a foot stool – a box or small piece of wood will also do the job.
Another way to change up your posture is by moving your computer to a higher surface like a raised kitchen bench so that you can stand for short periods of time. Start off with 15min intervals and you can work your way up to longer as time goes on.
2. Screen height and position
The height of your screen is especially important in maintaining the correct neck position to avoid neck pain and headaches.
To achieve the correct height, you may need to elevate your screen to ensure it is at eye level. Find something around the house like a box or some books to raise your monitor. If you are using a laptop computer this can be achieved by using an external keyboard.
The distance away is also important. Try and place your screen an arms length away which allows for paperwork or keyboard to be placed in front if required.
In the case that you are required to use multiple screens, have the one you use the most (more than 50%) in the centre and the other off to the side. If you are using them equally sit in the middle of both screens.
If you perform tasks in paper form, try lowering your chair position 5-7cm to decrease the amount of neck flexion or invest in a vertical document holder.
3. Keyboard and mouse setup
The keyboard should be 10-25cm from the desk edge depending on arm length which aids support for the forearms and allows them to be resting on your desk without stress. This also helps maintain a neutral wrist position for typing and mouse work.
The mouse should be located right next to the keyboard to maintain neural arm and shoulder position. You can also alter sides to decrease the repetitive action to one side.
Not everyone has an adjusting office chair at home, so a standard kitchen chair will do with a few adjustments. Try and use a chair that has a solid backrest and comes up to your mid back. Using a rolled-up towel or small cushion in the sway of your lower back and behind your knees can be a great way to take pressure off your lower back. If the chair is too tall for your feet to be flat on the ground, use a footstool as explained earlier.
If you happen to have an office chair at home here are a few areas to look at:
- Make sure your seat base is in a neural tilt with a gap of 3/5 fingers between the back of your knees and the front of the chair.
- Have your backrest on a 90-120 degree recline and the height of the chair will variety depending on the height of the table being used. The rule of thumb is that long as your forearms are resting at 90 degrees on the table.
It is particularly important for work efficiency and concentration to pick the right location to set up your workspace. Be sure to pick somewhere that is:
- Away from the living and dining areas if others are home to create a quiet environment.
- Has good lighting whether it is natural or artificial.
- Has regulated heating and cooling.
- Is located in a position where you can easily access a toilet.
6. Stretching and taking breaks
Last but not least it is important to try and take regular breaks away from your desk. Guidelines suggest 5 minutes every 30 minutes is the recommended amount. So, get up and grab a glass of water or make a call while walking around as much as you can.
Here are some quick and simple stretches you can do at your desk to decrease tension:
- Neck stretch: look up and down and side to side
- Upper body and arm: put your hands up in the air and stretching up as high as you can
- Lower back: put the palms of your hands on your lower back and lean back over your hands
- Trunk rotations: Cross one leg over the other. Place your arm on the same side as the cross leg on the back of the chair. Twist body in that direction and hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Glutes: Place your ankle on the opposite knee for your lower back. Lean forward and keep your back straight.
Apply these tips will help improve your home workstation and prevent any postural related injuries from recurring.
If you have any predisposing pain related to long hours in front of the computer, the helpful staff at Healthy Mates can provide you with manual therapy, demonstrate stretches customized to you and access your workstation individually.