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Working From Home Guidance

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06.07.2020

Working From Home Guidance

We are now 14 weeks into lockdown and despite the fact that things seem to be changing, many of us are still working from home. This presents unique challenges, where at work we may have had our specific desk setups and we were expected to be at our work stations all day.

These are some things we have heard several people say to us in the last 14 weeks:

  • “I need to adjust the seat height so that my hips and knees are in-line and my feet are flat on the floor”
  • “I need to adjust the backrest so that its level with my shoulders”
  • “I need to raise my screen so that my eyes gaze into the top 1/3 of the screen”
  • “I need to place the monitor no further than arm’s length away”

However, for most of us this is not practical to re-create at home, so do not worry about it. The current research shows that adjusting monitor angle by 14-20 degrees had no influence on neck position (1), to increase your risk of neck pain you would need to stay in the same position for 95% of the day (2) and finally posture or position isn’t predictive of future pain (3,4). Working from home means we have significantly more autonomy around our working position.

 

“The next posture is the best one.”

 

Sustaining any position or posture for a prolonged timeframe is difficult and something we should look to modify. If you start to experience any discomfort or any exacerbation of pre-existing symptoms, consider changing your position. Some suggestions are:

  • Spend some time sitting at the dining room table
  • Spend some time standing with the laptop raised on a box
  • Spend some time sitting on the sofa with your laptop on your knees

It is not each position that is important it is the fact that you are changing positions on a regular basis. You may find you are more comfortable in one position compared to others. Over time you will learn what works best for you in this new environment.

 

Micro-Breaking

Every 45 minutes to an hour, you should take a 3-5 minute movement break where you get away from what you’re doing to make a drink, go to the loo, discuss a question with a colleague (over the phone) or load the dishwasher. Research has shown that regular small breaks reduce aches and pains, resets our concentration, and boosts our productivity (5). Also, when having a lunch break it is important to get away from where you are working and consider going out for a walk (6).

We know that many aches and pains we develop from a change in our work circumstances are transient and last no more than 5-6 weeks and that strengthening exercises increase our physical resilience to work postures. Some common areas of complaint and suggestive exercises are listed below:

  • Low back
  • Thoracic
  • Neck
  • Shoulder

 

In summary, do not worry about being in the perfect posture; it does not exist. The best advice is to:

  • Work however you feel comfortable
  • Change posture regularly
  • Keep doing regular cardiovascular exercise and strengthening

 

Here are some exercise programmes you can do from home:

 


 

References

  1. Kietrys, D., McClure, P. & Fitzgerald, G. (1998). The Relationship Between Head and Neck Posture and VDT Screen Height in Keyboard Operators. Physical Therapy, 78 (4), 395-403.
  2. Hallman, D., Gupta, N., Heiden, M., Mathiassen, S.E., Korshøj, M., Jørgensen, M.B. & Holtermann, A. (2016). Is prolonged sitting at work associated with the time course of neck-shoulder pain? A prospective study in Danish blue-collar workers. British Medical Journal Open, 6(11), 1-9.
  3. Cagnie, B., Daneels, L., Van Tiggelen, D., De Loose, V. & Cambier D. (2007). Individual and work-related risk factors for neck pain among office workers: a cross sectional study. European Spine Journal, 16(5), 679-686.
  4. Tissot, F., Messing, K. & Stock, S. (2009). Studying the relationship between low back pain and working postures among those who stand and those who sit most of the working day. Ergonomics, 52(11), 1402-1418.
  5. Kim, S., Park, Y. & Hendrick, L. (2018). Daily Micro-breaks and Job Performance: General Work Engagement as a Cross-Level Moderator. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(7), 772-786.
  6. Sianoja, M., Syrek, C.J., De Bloom, J., Korpela, K. & Kinnunen, U. (2018). Enhancing daily well-being at work through lunchtime park walks and relaxation activities: Recovery experiences as mediators. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 23(3) 428-442.
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