Many of us are now forced to work from home and often away from ergonomically designed offices and workstations.
Now, more than ever, we need to be aware of our postures when spending lengthy periods in front of the computer so that neck and back problems and other health issues do not arise.
Here are the top 10 tips that may help you get your computer set-up at home well design and to minimise neck and back pain.
1. Find the best location for your computer set-up
- Try to set up the computer in an environment similar to your normal workstation or school setting.
- Set up a proper workstation, preferably one that does not need packing up each time the family needs to eat.
- If you have a spare room or corner in the house, set it up as your workspace. Make it quiet, well lit and away from others in the household – to eliminate distractions. You may need to move some furniture in larger rooms to set up a table to work on. It might be a good idea to talk to your employer to see if they can help you out with your set up.
- AVOID working on the floor, on the couch or even worse – in bed.
2. Prioritize your comfort.
- If your dining chair is now your work chair, ensure that your back is adequately supported and the height is appropriate for the use of the keyboard. Use whatever cushions are required for good back support and seating height adjustment.
- If you do not have an ergonomic chair that can be adjusted for height, depth and tilt and swivel, now might be the time to invest in one. Even better, ask your employer if you can borrow your ergonomic chair from work.
- Remember, to be productive and effective your back and posture-care needs to be a priority.
3. Position the monitor and keyboard correctly in your computer set-up.
- The monitor should be directly in front of you at about an arm’s length away. The top of the screen should be at eye level so that your eyes are looking down about 30°.
- If you are working from a laptop, raise the screen by propping it up on a stand or books. A wireless mouse and keyboard will keep the keyboard close enough, prevent overreaching and allow your wrists to rest on the desk/table in a neutral position. Your neck and shoulders should be comfortably relaxed without the head being poked forward.
4. Chair setup.
- The height of the chair should allow your elbows to rest just above desk height, bent to about a 90-120° and with the forearms parallel to the floor.
- Lumbar support will improve spinal alignment and help prevent back issues. If your chair does not have adequate lumbar support use a lumbar roll (MD Health can organize one for you) or small cushion in the curve of your lower back.
- Your hips should be at about 90 degrees with your feet supported comfortably on the floor. If your feet do not reach the floor – use a footrest, a few large books or a small step.
5. Stand up frequently.
- It doesn’t matter how good your home set up is, if you sit without moving for too long, you will get a sore back/neck/ mid back. Make sure you set an alarm on your phone you remind you to get out of your seat every 30 min to change positions and get some blood flowing through your legs, back and shoulders.
- You can stretch your mid back with one of our favourite rotation stretches, but even if you don’t do this, changing positions every 30 minutes will make a difference.
6. Good Lighting
- Ensure there is adequate lighting so that you can easily read documents and books on the screen. To prevent you continually leaning forward to read small print, zoom in on your page so that the writing is larger.
- Lighting is particularly important when you are communicating via teleconferencing. Your face should be well lit so that it can be seen clearly on your webcam and without bright lights or windows behind you. Think of the person on the other end on the conference call.
7. Take Regular Breaks
- To remove you from sustained postures these are essential. Take regular breaks. Get out of your chair at least every 30 minutes. Stand, stretch, walk, do the exercises your Physio or EP has taught you. Perform simple and quick chores. Give your brain, eyes and body a rest – even if it is for only a short time.
- Take longer breaks throughout the day to give your body a rest – just like you would at work. Still have your morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea breaks and try to maintain your normal work routine. Do not over-eat!
8. Reduce repetitive movements
- The stresses from repeating the same motion over and over can lead to the breakdown of soft tissues and cause injuries. The best way to avoid this is to change the tasks regularly. Do something different to take the pressure off your joints and muscles – even if it is only for a short time.
- For example, try filing papers, cleaning up your desk for 5 minutes or using the mouse with the other hand.
9. Avoid sustained postures
- Sustained postures can create big issues and why it is so crucial to move regularly. Even the world’s best ergonomic setup at home may still cause you to slump for long periods and put undue strain on your back muscles and joints.
- Make sure you stayactive while you are working at your workspace. Move in your seat, change the position of your feet, squeeze your butt, twist in the chair, roll your shoulders and look around the room regularly. Just do something!
10. Use a headset.or headphones as part of your computer set-up
- If you are spending considerable time on the phone or teleconferencing, use a headset or headphones so you are not constantly holding the phone to your ear. This will prevent your head being tilted for lengthy periods and free up your hand to type more effectively. Resist the temptation to cradle your phone to your ear with your shoulder. This may be an opportune time to do that touch-typing course you have intended on doing!
- As you are not going into work, why not use the traveling time that you have saved to get yourself fitter? Use that extra 30-45 minutes you now have to get yourself into a regular exercise regime. This will have the benefit of you feeling better, working more productively and efficiently, losing weight, having less mental and health issues and feeling much more alive! Do something good for yourself and give your body back some of the life that it yearns for.
- Exercising and stretching first thing in the morning are a great way to start the day – and is something you can build on throughout the day. Go for a long walk, jog or bike ride. In these times with so much doom and gloom around, staying physically and mentally fit is VITAL. Better still – make exercising a habit.
- When you’re at home, it is far too easy to go to the fridge or pantry and grab that extra packet of chips or block of chocolate. It’s best to be prepared for these times and have some healthy options available! The night before or that morning, prepare some healthy snacks to be ready for you when you go to the fridge. Some great options are:
- Carrot sticks and celery sticks with hummus
- Carrot sticks and celery sticks with Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of flaxseed oil (Low-carb snack with protein and omega-3 fatty acids)
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Greek yoghurt with fruit
- Rice cakes topped with hummus, sauerkraut and pepitas
- Rice cakes topped with peanut butter and banana – add some cacao nibs if you’d like a chocolatey hit
- Hand full of mixed nuts like cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, pepitas etc.
- 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries, cut up apple and cottage cheese (Again, low-carb with some protein)
At MD Health, we can design and give you a specific program of exercises that are designed for you to keep you fit, active and healthy. What is great though, is that these programs can all be done over the internet via Telehealth, so you do not need to leave home.
Do you have any questions?
- Call us on (03) 9857 0644 or (07) 3505 1494 (Paddington)
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Check out our other blog posts here
Our clinical staff would be happy to have chat if you have any questions.