The COVID-19 has forced many of us to develop new work strategies, including working from home. Gone are the office chairs, comfortable desks and the habits that made us get up and move. The couch, kitchen table or bed quickly become our new work station. For many of us, the excitement of remote work soon fades as we start to experience neck and back pain literally making work a pain in the neck. Combine that with constant access to the refrigerator and pantry and you have a recipe for disaster. So, how do you keep yourself feeling good and productive? Below are a few tips to help you stay comfortable and effective while working remotely for the foreseeable future:
Standing while you work engages your core and leg muscles keeping your blood moving. If standing isn’t an option because of your home set up, try perching. Perching or sitting on the edge of a stool or chair helps your spine maintain an S-shape and keep your leg muscles engaged. If you are not used to standing or perching regularly, you might find you tire quickly. Gradually increase the time you stand or perch and you will find your body responds quickly. You might also try creating your own standing desk. Put your monitor on some books or boxes so you can stand while keeping your monitor properly positioned.
Change Your Posture Often
For many of us, standing or perching throughout the day isn’t practical given our home office set up. If so, try changing your position throughout the day. Sitting in the same position, even at work, can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain. Try starting the day at the kitchen table and then move to your couch later. Add a towel between your chair and your lower back for lumbar support. Additionally, you can place your feet on an elevated surface to help stretch out your legs. Ideally, your hips and thighs form a 90 degree angle when you sit, but moving your legs and feet can make a much needed difference. You might also try kneeling or squatting, lying flat on your back (no one will know), or sitting cross-legged on the floor for periods of time.
Take Regular Breaks
Regular movement helps you keep your body healthy and gives your brain a break. Set a timer to go off at regular intervals reminding you to move around. As you walk around, do some quick stretches. While this is helpful when working in the office, it becomes even more important when working from home. Even short, quick breaks make a huge difference in the way you feel at the end of a long day.
Lose the Laptop
Laptops are great for short periods of time or when you work in a number of locations. However, they aren’t ergonomically friendly. Standing and taking breaks become pointless if you spend the day hunched over a screen several feet too low. If possible, use a desktop. At a minimum, buy a separate keyboard. Keep your keyboard at elbow height and position the top of your laptop or monitor just below your eyes. If working on a reading intensive assignment, prop your laptop up at eye level. Then, lower it when you type.
Take Care of Your Eyes
Follow the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes you spend looking at a monitor, spend 20 seconds looking at something else at least 20 feet away. Give your eyes a chance to relax and reduce your eye strain.
Don’t Skip Lunch
Many of us find the temptation to snack throughout the day irresistible. However, making a meal and staying hydrated forces you to take breaks. It provides an opportunity to move around, stretch and give your eyes a break. Your body will thank you.
Follow Your Normal Routine
It’s easy to jump out of bed and head right to the computer to start working. However, taking a shower, getting dressed and eating breakfast gives your body time to reengage your muscles after a good sleep. You’ll feel more energized and ready to go. Shut down the computer at the same time you would normally leave work. While you might be tempted to “do one more thing”, you need the time to disconnect and prepare for the next day even more when working remotely.