A lack of office ergonomics for patients working from home are making for more trips to the chiropractor
U.S. workers are apparently getting used to working from home, even if the resulting working homebodies are not practicing safe office ergonomics and are keeping chiropractic offices busier with new aches and pains.
According to a Gallup poll, the majority of workers that Gallup surveyed for this poll reported that they would prefer to continue to work remotely, even once the quarantine restrictions come to an end.1
Approximately 60% of those surveyed liked having the option to work from home, while 40% stated that they would prefer returning to their workplace once the current quarantine conditions were lifted.
If these survey results are any sort of accurate prediction for trends among the American work force, not only will we see the number of remote workers increase during the current pandemic, but continue to do so once the quarantines are lifted. Part of the reason for this is simple economics for both employees and employers. Not only do employees save on gas and commute time, but employers can see both increases in productivity among remote workers, as well as savings in turnover, absenteeism, and electricity costs for the workplace.2,3
With so many people working from home, setting up their home office for maximum productivity becomes a large concern. In addition to making certain that there is proper connectivity and telecommunications, comfort must also be taken into consideration, including ergonomics.
This is where your expertise as a DC can come into play.
Office ergonomics: making the home office an actual office
One of the big potential pitfalls from working at home is using the couch or, worse, the bed as a workspace. While it may be tempting to do so, using something other than a desk and chair, or standing work station, for your home office can end up causing a number of problems that may lead to less productivity.
Trying to spend the entire day working from the couch or bed will likely not be good for the posture, leading to stiff, aching joints. Finally, the lighting in these areas is often less than optimal for looking at a computer screen for long periods of time, which often means squinting at the screen or hunching the shoulders with the head pushed forward. Such a position can lead to neck pain and headaches over time.
Align patients with their workspace
Once the actual space has been selected, one big component of making the home office a productive space will be its ergonomics – or how well the office furniture and equipment conforms to the body so that patients will be comfortable working all day.
This includes the position and height of a chair, the optimal height for a display screen, and tilt of the keyboard, among other things. Suggests for optimally aligning an office space include:
- Consider a workstation that can convert to either a sitting or standing position
- Both elbows and knees should be bent at a 90° angle to the floor
- Use a towel or pillow with your chair to adjust your height and as lumbar support
- Computer screens should be at eye level
Get patients moving too
In a standard workplace environment, you are not sitting at your desk the entire time. You walk to the break room for coffee, tea, or to get your lunch. You may walk to another department to talk with a coworker, or the conference room for a meeting. If you are feeling ambitious, you might even take the stairs, rather than the elevator, or walk a lap or two around the office parking lot. The point is that your probably get more exercise during a standard day at your workplace than you realize.
Unfortunately, this is not the case when working from a home office. The kitchen and restroom are only a short distance away, so there is less opportunity to get up and stretch your legs during the day.
There are ways to build breaks into a patient’s day to help overcome this inertia. Some ideas include:
- Setting an alarm to go off every 30-60 minutes to remind you to get up and stretch
- Starting your day with a short yoga routine, such as a few sun salutations
- Not eating lunch at your desk while you work. Take time to walk around the block or do some household chores that get you moving.
- Ending your day with another yoga session or some meditation
“We really overlook how simple it is to correct our posture, and what a significance it has to our whole body,” Dr. Alexandra Duma, DC, DACBSP, a chiropractor at New York City recovery studio FICS, told Travel + Leisure. “Our parents were right when they said, ‘Sit up straight.’”
“I hope everyone does some form of movement, but I would hope people don’t go, ‘I haven’t done a workout in months and now I’m going to go all out and do the craziest workout I find on Instagram’ and get injured.”
There’s no question that the current pandemic situation has up-ended how we think about the workplace. It has presented us all with challenges in working from home.
However, patients practicing good posture and body alignment in the home office, along with taking time to stretch, move and release tension, will help them outside the office and you as a chiropractor inside our office when they are more flexible, fit, and following good posture advice.
- Brenan M. U.S. workers who are working from home as a result of the coronavirus situation. Gallup Poll. April 3, 2020. Accessed June 29, 2020.
- Bloom N. To raise productivity, let more employees work from home. Harvard Business Review. Jan-Feb 2014.
- Telecommuting Could Save U.S. Over $700 Billion a Year and Much More. Global Workplace Analytics. Accessed June 29, 2020.