Are you one of the millions of Americans working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Forbes recently reported that almost 6 out of 10 American ‘knowledge’ workers are working remotely. More of us than ever are finding ourselves in different positions these days, both figuratively and literally. This sudden change could lead to unforeseen physical consequences without proper set up.
Nothing hinders productivity quite like new pain in your neck, back, wrists, etc. Basic ergonomics must be considered when creating a new workstation and routine to avoid discomfort, or even injury.
Let’s focus on ways to make your space work for you and decrease strain on the body.
- Computer screen – Looking at multiple screens, multiple times a day has become a societal norm… but so has poor posture and strain, unfortunately. Avoid leaning down or hunching over to get closer to your monitor. In a seated position, our head should be vertical to our neck. Position your computer or laptop screen at arm’s length, with the top of your monitor slightly below eye level. This allows your head and neck to be in a comfortable resting or ‘slack’ position.
*Tip: Need to raise your monitor? Place it on a small sturdy box, a few books, or a laptop elevator.
- Keyboard/mouse – Our keyboard and mouse should be on the same surface, with the keyboard should rest above your lap. This gives us the ability to comfortably use the keyboard and mouse without having to move our upper arms.
*Tip: Wrist pain? Keyboards often have legs affixed to the underside to prop up the top to make the back keys more accessible, but this creates an upward bend in the wrists. Position your keyboard so that it is flat against the surface to reduce tension on wrists and hands.
- Phone – Conference calls are not going away any time soon, so make get as comfortable as possible during long conversations. Utilize speaker phone capability or invest in a pair of cool headphones. In this time of taking additional sanitary measures, we can limit our exposure to germs by not touching our phones to our faces.
*Tip: Avoid cradling the phone between the ear and shoulder. This increases muscle tension and negatively effects productivity.
- Chair – Posture, posture, posture. Sitting in a position that allows for the right posture assists respiratory system, while poor posture can compress the upper back and abdomen. This can prevent the diaphragm from opening fully. The result is low oxygen intake and decreased energy levels. The height of the chair should allow feet to rest comfortably on the floor with knees even or slightly below hip level.
*Tip: If your feet do not reach the floor, prop them up on something (box, books, pillow, etc.) Planting feet helps support the lower back.
As the agenda for the day allows, take breaks! Even in the best of positions, avoid sitting for extended periods of time. Use breaks and lunch times to go outside, walk up a flight of stairs, stand and stretch, or even just walking to your mailbox to limit the amount of time sitting. Use the timer function on your cell phone to set reminders to get up and MOVE!
Already experiencing aches and pains? Axes Physical Therapy is here to help, in person or virtually.
Schedule your appointment at one of our 11 Greater St. Louis area locations or via a Telehealth injury screening.
About the Author: Kelsey Kessler, DPT graduated from Maryville University in 2013 with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy and has been practicing in outpatient orthopedic settings for her entire career. Additionally, she is a vestibular therapist and a certified ASTYM provider. To schedule an appointment with Kelsey, request an appointment online today.