Once the Covid-19 pandemic spread, the professional environment shifted to our homes almost overnight. All over the world, corporates and governments chose work-from-anywhere over the conventional office setup. While this transformation has helped save people from the virus, it has also caused other challenges. Regular home furniture, no matter how comfortable, isn’t designed to support long hours of professional work. People are working in conditions that are not conducive to productivity and don’t offer the right ergonomics. Thus, back pain, eye strain, fatigue and other issues have cropped up rapidly. However, even if everyone can’t set up an ideal ergonomic and professional workstation, there are ways to reduce strain and fatigue through careful posturing and habits. These habits and practices go a long way in helping people cope up with work-from-home stress.
Don’t stoop over the screen: One of the commonest problems that long hours of daily working on the laptop/computer from home causes is the occurrence of back, shoulder and neck pains. It is recommended that if you can use an external monitor screen or use a laptop stand with an external keyboard and mouse, it can help in elevating the screen to keep the display at eye level. This will prevent stooping or craning your neck and reduce back/neck pains and fatigue.
Maintain right height: The height of your work chair should be in line with your table/desk height. This will ensure that your elbows are naturally placed in sync with the table and give you better wrist alignment instead of causing carpal tunnel stress which could be really painful.
Use the right chair: Office chairs are specifically designed to provide lumbar support to users even during long hours of usage. If you don’t have a proper office chair at home then try using cushions or folded towels to sit on. This will raise the hips and increase the curvature of the spine, making the posture more comfortable.
Keep your feet grounded: At times, sitting on a high chair or stool could result in feet not reaching the floor. In such a scenario, one should place a box or a footstool under the feet to ensure that the thighs are parallel to the ground and the hips are slightly higher than the knees. This reduces stress on the lumbar spine.
Follow the 20:20:20 rule: Continuously staring into the screen for hours can cause eye strain and other problems. Therefore, it is recommended that after every 20 minutes spent looking at a computer screen, one must spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away. This reduces the strain on the eyes and makes working more pleasant.
Avoid working from couch/bed or hammock etc: A lot of people tend to lie down on the bed/couch or sometimes in a hammock while working. This kind of posture can be stressful and uncomfortable for the body if you work for long hours or the whole day. Therefore, it is best advised to avoid this posture and work by sitting upright ergonomically.
Pay attention to nutrition and hydration: The commonest mistake that people make is to skip eating right and drinking enough water while working. This could be even more harmful in the hot and humid Indian climate. Therefore, no matter how busy you are or how important the task on hand might be, make sure that you eat a balanced meal on time and keep yourself adequately hydrated.
Take breaks: Continuous sitting or standing for hours is detrimental to productivity. While working from home, we have all amenities within close proximity, unlike offices where one might need to walk across the floor for basic needs. That’s why it is important to take breaks to change your posture. If nothing else, walk around the house or simply get up, stretch or fill your water bottle to ensure you are hydrated and take a few steps before resuming work.
Pay attention to the body: The human body has a clear signalling system to indicate problems and it is known as ‘pain.’ If you experience ache or numbness in any part of the body, it indicates that there is some discomfort or problem. It is the act of ignoring these niggles and pains especially in limbs and joints that can lead to long-term ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome, inflammation of tendons, back injuries etc. Therefore, listening to the body’s signals and taking prompt corrective steps is an ideal approach for all of us.
All the tips and measures mentioned here are easy to implement and can be highly effective in ensuring comfort and productivity. However, if you experience consistent pains that disrupt your ability to carry out daily tasks then you must consult a specialist immediately.
The writer is Chief Physiotherapist, Portea Medical.