With musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions already affecting 17 million people in the UK, remote working can pose real challenges. How can you ensure you’re looking after yourself to prevent issues such as lower back pain and repetitive strain injury?
Many workplaces have occupational health experts on-site to keep people healthy whilst at their desks. But what about when working from home? Here are some top tips from Jamal, an Urban Business physiotherapist, to help you minimise discomfort and injury risk.
How to set up your desk
Ensure your desk including monitor, keyboard and mouse are correctly configured. Your monitor should be positioned at eye level and an arms width away. To reduce glare, position your monitor at a right angle to the window.
Your keyboard and mouse should be at the same level, with your wrists straight and the weight of your arms supported by arm rests.
Adjusting your chair to your desk
Ideally you should have a chair with good lumbar support, as this helps to reduce pressure. Start with adjusting your chair by tilting your seat pan to produce a 90-120 degree angle between your thighs and torso so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees. Then adjust your arm rests, so that your elbows are at a 90 degree angle.
If neither your seat pan nor arm rests can be adjusted, you should adjust your seat height so that your feet are comfortably on the floor. Lumbar support should align with your lower back curve.
If you can’t adjust the height of your chair and your feet do not touch the floor, use a footrest and ensure you have enough room to shift around from time to time, as remaining in the same position can result in aches and strains.
Creating a comfortable working environment
It can be difficult to find a perfect working environment with limited space and others in the house (particularly children). To maximise your productivity try these things right away if you haven’t already:
- Try to replicate your normal work routine in the mornings and afternoon, whether that’s the equivalent of your usual walking commute indoors, or your morning coffee routine.
- Find a quiet space with lots of natural light. This will help you maintain your concentration and energy levels throughout the day.
- Use a headset instead of a telephone to make it more comfortable and convenient during meetings.
What stretches can I do at my desk?
Here are three simple stretches that can be performed at your workstation regularly:
- Seated thoracic rotation: sitting on your chair, begin with a straight back and arms folded across your chest. Keep hips facing forward, rotate slowly to one side and hold. Return to the centre and rotate to the other side and repeat.
- Sitting leg extension: sit with a straight back, hands by your sides and legs at a 90 degree angle. Extend one leg straight out in front of you, return to starting position then extend the other. You can add a resistance band, looped around the foot of the chair and your ankle, for a deeper stretch.
- Overhead stretch: stand with feet flat on the floor. Raise your arms above your head, interlock your fingers and extend your arms, pushing palms towards the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds, relax and repeat.