Most workers have been left on their own to figure out how to set up a proper workspace when working from home
According to a recent report from Stanford University, approximately 42% of working Americans are now working from home full time, as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the work generated by those who are currently working remotely now accounts for more than 60% of US economic activity.
The percentage of days spent working from home rose from 5%, prior to the pandemic, to 40% under current pandemic conditions. While the study predicts that the percentage of Americans working from home after the end of the pandemic will not return to pre-pandemic levels, it will drop to approximately half of current pandemic levels.
Unfortunately, most workplaces don’t really have a set of formal procedures for how their employees should set up their home offices and manage their workflow, given the small percentage of those who worked from home prior to the pandemic. Most workers have been pretty much left on their own to figure out how to set up a proper workspace and effectively manage their work activities when working from home.
As a result, many of your patients working from home may have stiffness or pain in the neck, shoulders or back, as well as increased stress and anxiety levels. While you may not be able to see them in your office, here are some tips you can use to help in their adjustment to working from home.
Don’t be a couch potato
The couch may be comfy for watching TV or web surfing, but it is really less than ideal for actually working from home.
Trying to work on a computer for an extended period of time from the couch is bad for your posture, as the body will naturally slouch inward. This can lead to neck, shoulder, and back pain and stiffness. Workers should instead use a proper desk and office chair.
Working from home: the ergonomic-friendly workspace
The home office should be properly configured to maintain the natural curvature of the spine. Doing so will help protect not only the back, but the neck and shoulders from excessive stress and fatigue, which could lead to pain and injury.
- Keep the forearms and thighs parallel to the floor while sitting at the desk
- Use a chair with proper back support and a small rolled-up towel for added lumbar support
- Use a thin cushion or folded blanket or towel to adjust height and soften a hard chair
- Have the computer screen at eye level. Raise a laptop with a stand or books, and buy a separate mouse/trackball and keyboard.
Even with the best ergonomics, workers will still need to take breaks, stand up, and move around during the day.
Doing so will improve circulation to the extremities, most importantly to the legs and feet. This prevents edema, or swelling of the ankles and feet, as well as stiffness or pain in the hip, knee, and ankle joints. It may help to set an alarm as a reminder to get up every hour and move around for 10 minutes. This may not only help the musculoskeletal system, but help clear the mind.
De-stress the whole body
On top of working from home, there’s no question that these current times are stressful — it can often feel as though current events are overwhelming everything, including work.
A stress-reducing routine, such as meditation or yoga, can not only serve as a mental break during the workday, but may also help in refocusing on the tasks at hand. Pick a few simple yoga stretches, such as the sun salutation, to do during scheduled breaks during the work day. Not only will they help ease stiffness in the body, but they also can help calm anxious thoughts. A meditation at the end of workday can also serve as a nice transition from work time to “me time.”
See a chiropractor for any issues
Posture remains a critical issue for fending off aches and pains.
“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, with New York City recovery studio FICS, told Travel + Leisure. “Our parents were right when they said, ‘Sit up straight.’”
A couch or other areas may work occasionally, but seek a consistent space with a desk, chair, and an environment that lends itself to upright posture.
“Try to assign a space where you can be productive, by a source of light, and make sure that you’re not on a couch or bed,” Duma said. “I think people can be tempted to do that during this time…but that can be very bad for your body, back, and neck, so try to have a space with a desk and chair.”
No matter how people feel about working from home, all indications are that it will continue to be a vital part of our economy even after the current pandemic has ended. This is why it is so important to adjust now to a home office environment to continue to be productive, happy, and pain free.