We seem to spend hours at a computer nowadays, not only working but shopping, socialising, researching……….
Technology now means we can work from almost anywhere, and the number of people working from home is now estimated to be 14% of the workforce.
Whereas in an office or workplace, we tend to be mindful of our workstation set up or have support and guidance from an occupational health service, at home this isn’t so. The work station can often be a lap top at a kitchen table or desk that doubles up for the kids homework!
Over time, such a set up can wreck havoc with your body.
Ergonomic principles are great. They optimise your work station set up to make sure any stress on your body from working in a sustained position is minimised. However, the trouble with ergonomics is that it can make a work station TOO COMFORTABLE. This means you don’t necessarily feel uncomfortable, therefore you stay in one position longer. Staying in any position for too long isn’t recommended as over time this can lead to pain and issues in areas such as your neck, back and arms.
So, although optimising your work station ergonomically is recommended, to have the greatest benefit you need to combine this with changing position regularly, being active in the working day and taking small breaks.
It can seem a bit daunting, reviewing your work set up, but small changes can make a huge difference.
- Start with your chair. Decent chairs don’t need to be expensive nowadays. The key components are that it has arm rests, is height adjustable (both seat and back rest), that it provides support for your lumbar spine and that it can swivel (which helps you move around your desk and reach for things you need).
- On your desk make sure your mouse and keyboard are as close together as possible. Position your key board so that the letter B is right in the middle (many key boards are asymmetrical). Your key board and mouse should be positioned at a height so that your elbows are bent at 90 degrees when your working – this is applicable in both a seated and standing work position.
- Position your monitor so that the top is about 8-10cm above eye level, so you can look straight on. It should be about an arms length away when you’re sitting. If you use a laptop, get yourself a docking station or device to raise it up so you’re not always looking down.
- Make sure everything is within easy reach.
- If you use a lap top, invest in a separate keyboard and stand so that you can follow the same ergonomic principles.
- Set your desk and chair height appropriately for your height. Ergotron offer a great interactive tool to help you work out what your optimal working position should be in both siting and standing.
As pointed out above, no matter how good your desk set up is, the key to staying pain and injury free when your work is mainly computer based is variety. Alternate positions when you can. A good way to do this is by task based working. For example, if you need to take or make a phone call, do this walking round. Put your printer in another room so you have to get up to retrieve any printing. Set a timer to remind you to take a minute out every 30 minutes or so to get up and stretch. Use your kitchen worktop for brainstorming or taking written notes. Invest in a height adjustable desk so that you can alternate between sitting and standing when you’re on your computer. Suggest a walking meeting so you can get out in the fresh air and get your body moving at any opportunity.
Working from home can be great, reduced travel time, more flexible hours and coffee at hand, but, the tendency to work longer hours at the desk can be part of it. So, just make sure you look after you body in the process.
If you’d like any help or advice with your work station set up, our team of Physiotherapist are on hand to help. Just give the clinic a call on 023 8025 3317.