If you have at any point worked in an office undoubtedly you would have received advice on how to set up your desk or had a workstation assessment from Occupational Health, since the workplace is highly regulated with regards to Display Screen Equipment, seating and desk height. However how many of you are reading this at your kitchen table? Or feet up, lolling on the sofa on your phone? Many of the patients I see wax lyrical about how their PC is correctly positioned and they have the latest new-fangled designed office chair yet those regulations rarely (if ever) are transferred to the home.
Working from home can create a number of challenges to the ideal ergonomic workstation setup – space, lighting, and effective storage being some. You can Google ‘setting up your workstation’ to find any number of pages with step by step advice on the correct screen angle, desk height, and chair, personally, I’d recommend Backcare’s advice for being simple, concise and easy to follow, but the key is to follow it!!
So the first thing to do is find a dedicated space to call your own. Declutter, organise and file so that you can have the computer in the right place (in front of you, at arm’s length with the mouse accessible to both hands to reduce the chance of repetitive strain injury). Make sure the information you need is easy to locate and access so you’re not lifting heavy files at an awkward angle or regularly standing on chairs to reach boxes above your head.
If your ‘home work’ is mainly clerical and happens on the kitchen table once the kids have gone to bed ensure you can move about that space easily and vary your posture between standing and sitting to prevent leaning over the table for long periods of time, as this will aggravate the muscles and ligaments of the lower spine leading to the telltale nagging pain of soft tissue fatigue.
Catching up on emails on your smartphone or tablet, texting clients or monitoring your social media activity? Look up every now and again to prevent developing ‘text neck’ – symptoms range from neck and upper back pain and soreness to chronic nagging pain, sharp muscle spasms and even neurological symptoms into your arm and hand.
Taking a more holistic view, as is the Osteopath’s way, on workstation set up, give some consideration to the environment for or vista from your home office. Several studies have found that access to nature yields better cognitive functioning, more self-discipline, and greater mental health overall. One study even found that hospital patients who can see trees out of their windows are hospitalised 8 percent fewer days than their counterparts.
So rather than being a distraction, that view of the tree across the street could well be all you need to help you focus and become more productive, as you sit back from your computer screen for a five-minute break whilst stretching out your neck and arms, before sipping on a large glass of water.
Claire Arnold is a Registered Osteopath working in Chester and the Welsh Borders and can be contacted via Facebook.
For more information regarding Osteopathy and to find a practitioner in your area search The General Osteopathic Council’s website.