Working from home does not need to be a pain in the neck

Written by
Sean Fitzgerald on
08 April 2020

If you are working from home amid the Covid-19 pandemic, you might find that your makeshift office is literally a pain in the neck.  Many of us are working remotely in less than ideal ergonomic situations as we type on laptops in bed, hunched over the coffee table, on the couch and at the kitchen table. You need to be extra cognizant of your posture and routine, so you can combat the stress and strain that might come from working in a compromised position. As a result, many of us are feeling stiff and sore, no matter how many online Pilates/ Yoga classes we do.

What is the key to breaking up the stiffness?

All evidence-based research points to the simple answer being MOVEMENT.

Human beings are designed to move. Break up the workday with stretching, walking and a variety of postures.

Elaine has provide a 20 minute workout which you can try at home to keep us mobile and reduce pain whilst at home.

Here are some additional tips on how to stay healthy while working from home.

1. Use your home computer

Using your home computer so that you don’t work exclusively on your laptop. The monitor is the key to everything. You want to look straight ahead while you are working. Adjust your monitor so that it is directly in front of you at arms distance and your head is about 3 inches below the top of the monitor.​​​​​​

2. Riser

An inexpensive laptop riser will allow you to bring your monitor to your eye level. Books will also do the trick.

3. External keyboard and mouse

Invest in an external keyboard and mouse that will allow you to rest your arms at 90 degrees and maintain a neutral wrist position whilst typing. Having your laptop monitor on a riser/ books ensures minimal neck and upper back strain creeping in. 

4. Seating

Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet are flat on the floor or on a footrest. Adjust the back of your chair so that the lumbar support is positioned slightly below your belt-line. There should be a two to three finger width between the edge of your seat and the back of your knees.

Adjust your chair, whether with pillows, rolled up towels or mechanical adjustments, so that your elbows are the same height as the desk.

Learn how to use your chair if it is adjustable.

5. Posture

When sitting, try to recline by 10-15 degrees. Most people fall into the 90-degree trap. A slight recline will take pressure off your hips flexors. You do not need to feel like you are 100 years old when getting up from a chair. This means your hips are tight from sitting at 90 degrees.

Computer and Desk Stretches

Sitting at a computer for long periods often causes neck and shoulder stiffness & occasionally lower back pain. Do these stretches every hour or so throughout the day or whenever you feel stiff.

Elaine Carey

6. Take Breaks

Set reminders to go off every 30 minutes to take a break for 3-5 minutes. Walk or stretch at your desk or on the floor beside the desk. Wireless headphones allow for ongoing calls whilst still moving. If there is one particular part of your body that is bothering you, do some stretches for that problem area. Try to change your posture twice an hour and aim to perform some tasks while standing throughout the day. Invest in a portable sit to stand desk.

7. Footrest

It is worth investing in a footrest given the longevity of sheltering in place continues. Many people perch at the edge of their chair because the table is too high. If you have a footrest, it pushes you back in your chair so that your back is supported.    

Elaine Carey is a Chartered Physiotherapist based in Eastway Business Park, 8, Ballysimon Road, Crabb’s-Land, Limerick. 

Contact Elaine

Employers obligations to employees working from home

Employment law in Ireland law places strict obligations on employers to protect the safety and wellbeing of employees, particularly by providing a safe place of work, a safe system of work or proper training to their employees. Where injuries are sustained in the workplace it is possible for the injured party to take a legal action against the employer. Workplace includes any location where an employee is required to carry out their duties whether in your home or in a sharewotk space setting.

Learn more about accidents at work