With a blended approach to work, a higher number of us will spend a part of our week working from home, writes Joe Normoyle, Chartered Physiotherapist at the arena clinic at Mardyke Arena UCC.
On average, those who work at a desk spend 70% of their working day sitting. This percentage is likely to increase, as we find we no longer have commute times, official lunch breaks, and find ourselves with fewer reasons to get up and walk around.
Research highlights that sustained periods of prolonged static postures will increase the likelihood of triggering old injuries or causing new injuries. This applies whether you sustain good, bad or awkward postures for long periods. Regular movement is key!
Some tips to reduce the likelihood of injury:
- Sit correctly: Use a proper chair. Sit into the back of your chair, with your feet flat on the floor. If you have an adjustable chair, get the height of your chair right. You want your knees at 90 degrees. If the chair is too high or low, this may encourage you to sit with your legs crossed or sit on your legs, leading to a slumped back.
- Consider a footstool: If, by sitting back into the chair correctly, it means your feet do not lay flat on the floor then get something to support your feet. Often, we sit forward in the chair simply to have our feet reach the floor. This means our muscles need to do all of the work to support our back. Even a modest kitchen chair will have a back on it designed to support our bodies. Use it!
- Lumbar support: If you have a chair with good lumbar support, ensure you sit back into it to reap the benefit. If you do not have a lumbar support, try a rolled-up towel or cushion in the small of your back. If you maintain the natural curve of your lower back, it will maintain correct posture for your upper back and neck.
- Raise your screen to eye level: The top of your screen should be at or just below eye level. Use books, an empty shoebox or whatever you can to elevate your screen. It prevents slumping, head forward and rounded shoulders.
- Don’t forget your arms and shoulders: Where possible, use a chair with armrests that allow you to keep your elbows at 90 degrees. If possible, use a separate moveable keyboard. The keyboard on your laptop restricts the positioning of your body by being attached to the screen. A separate keyboard would enable you to maintain good sitting or standing posture while working.
- Avoid repetitive rotation: If working between a notebook and laptop, or turning from screen to write notes, be aware of repetitive rotation, of both neck and back. Make sure to swap sides regularly. Moving the notebook position, will ensure you are not turning in the one direction repeatedly over extended periods.
- Take regular breaks: Sometimes, if you are slow to get started or prone to procrastination, there is a tendency to work through breaks to make up for it. Your body needs the change of position. Be as disciplined as possible. It is a good idea to try to mimic the movements you would have been doing if you were still in the office. Set an alarm if it helps you keep to a schedule.
- Try a standing desk! I know we do not all have an adjustable desk or standing desk lying around at home. We do, however, have a kitchen countertop, ironing board, cardboard box or stacked books to raise our laptop height to allow us work while in standing. You still want the top of your screen at or just below eye level and your elbows at 90 degrees. Standing up will change your posture, putting different muscles in use, even though you are carrying out the same tasks. Try it!