With uncertain times ahead, many have been given the opportunity to work from home. This dramatic change in people’s working life can have several positive and negative effects.
- Set up a dedicated office space
With lines and boundaries between home and work becoming blurred a great start is establishing a dedicated office space. No matter how big or small the space in your house/apartment, a dedicated area where may you can focus on work when there, and perhaps more importantly forget about work when not. Most offices have had ergonomic assessments and fit outs. Whilst some workplaces will offer that for your home work, realistically most won’t. Good posture and ergonomic positions are important, but all evidence points to avoiding long, prolonged, awkward sitting or standing positions to reduce the risk of pain. If you can source a supportive chair, sit back in it. It doesn’t have to be labeled ergonomic or be expensive to be supportive.
- Adjust the height so your feet are flat on the floor
- Keep your arms by your side so you don’t reach for the keyboard or mouse, I like to feel more lats engaging so I know my shoulders aren’t slumping forward. A little pen under the arms works well for awareness. If it falls out,your reaching too far.
I find a lot of clients appreciate the proprioception of feeling the back of the seat so they reduce the risk of leaning forward, slumping or adopting twisted positions.
- Stand more
If you’re not used to it don’t do it for long. Build up tolerance for standing longer with short bursts. Start sitting for 15 minutes and standing for 2. A breakfast bar/ironing board/shoe box on your desk can do for makeshift standing desks if an adjustable desk isn’t available. Listen to your body and move as you are able.
- Risks of sedentary behaviour
Sedentary behaviours are a known risk factor for cancer, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and early death. Other risks from prolonged sitting include:
- People who sit for 11 hours or more a day are 40 per cent more likely to die within three years than those who sit for less than four hours
- The risk of heart disease is increased by 50 per cent even if exercise is performed regularly
- There is an increased risk of physical injuries if a worker maintains a static posture.
- The risk of colon cancer is doubled in people who perform highly sedentary work. (Source Van der Ploegg, H, Chey, T, Korda, R.J, Banks, E and Bauman, A 2012, ‘Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality Risk in 222 497 Australian Adults’, Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(6), pp.494-500. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2174)
- Move more
If you can move every 15-20 minutes, even for a second to stand and sit down, or get a drink of water you will reduce your risk. WorkSafe Australia has produced this helpful image to show this (see below). Remember long periods of standing, and your possible compensatory positions in standing could be equally harmful.
Squats, lunges, press-ups, walking and stairs can keep you active, and frequent movement is key. Set aside time to do your exercises, you’re at home – nobody will be watching you! If you’ve be given a Home Exercise Program follow it daily and see that as your chance to improve your compliance. Remember work is important but your health is even more important.
These will be challenging times ahead for everyone so stay active, take breaks and remember just because you work from home doesn’t mean you are always available to work when you are home. Set limits and boundaries and stick to them, maybe even see your former commuting time as your exercise or meditation time.
We here at Qv Physiotherapy are working on TeleHealth and online exercise class options and are here to support you through some transitions and to continue to provide advice to improve your function. Stay safe and stay active.