During lockdown most of the country started to work from home which meant work set-ups changed dramatically. After a couple of months, we noticed an increase in cases of neck and back pain due to poor workstations. Does that tight neck and sore shoulders sensation feel familiar?
Most of us, especially in London, do not have the space for a full office or even a desktop computer which has led to working long hours hunched over our laptops. Making a couple of changes to your work set-up without spending a fortune will make a big difference to your posture, comfort, and reduce the incidence of pain and injury.
In this post we will discuss the ideal work set-up, how to achieve this on a budget, and how to prevent pain through movement and activity.
What is the ideal work set-up? (It is not sat on the sofa with your laptop and blanket!)
- Screen at the top or middle of your eye level – a lower screen will cause you to round your shoulders and your neck will be in a forward position causing pain and tension.
- Screen 20-28 inches away from your face, tilted slightly at the bottom – this will help to reduce eye soreness and allow you to see the whole screen without straining your neck.
- Desk height should allow your elbows to sit directly under your shoulders with a 90-degree bend and your forearms naturally resting on the desk. If your shoulders are hunched up, your desk is too high, or your chair is too low.
- When sitting your feet should sit flat on the floor with a 90-degree bend in the hips – this will help to support your lower back.
Achieving this on a budget?
Most of us will not have the budget to set up a perfectly ergonomic workstation but there are a few simple and low-cost changes you can make to improve your set-up.
- Only have a laptop? Buy or borrow a monitor to plug into your laptop. You can then raise the screen to eye level allowing you to sit more upright, decreasing load and tension in the upper-back and neck. You don’t need a fancy monitor stand; a couple of books or boxes will do – here in the clinic we use yoga blocks.
- If you can’t get hold of a monitor – get a separate keyboard; you could ask to borrow one from your office or they are usually cheaper than monitors. Plug the keyboard into your laptop and raise the laptop screen on some books. Having a laptop on a desk will cause you to constantly look down and round your shoulders, leading to tension and pain.
- You could also use a laptop stand which allows you to raise the screen whilst having the keyboard angled down. You can also move this to different heights throughout the day. This is one of the pricier options.
- Missing your ergonomic comfy office chair? Try placing a cushion behind your lower back and sitting on another – this will help to give you more support in the lower back. You don’t need to spend a fortune to achieve any of the above – your muscles will thank you for it!
Preventing pain and getting relief
We understand work is busy and you can’t always get up to move but that lack of movement and sitting in one position all day, five days a week, is what can lead to pain. What quick easy things can do to incorporate movement into your day?
- Set movement alarms – a couple of alarms on your phone or computer to remind you to get up and move around for a couple of minutes. You should aim to get up and move for 5 minutes per hour. This can be hard to stick to if you’re not currently in pain, but prevention is always better than a cure!
- Set clear breaks in your day – make sure you set yourself breaks as you would normally have in the office. Take your lunch outside, sit on a bench, head outside to get a coffee. Not only will this help your physical health, it can help you to re-focus on your work.
- Stretching – try a 10-minute yoga flow or series of stretches (YouTube has thousands of these!). You don’t have to spend an hour stretching for it to be effective, you can do this halfway through your day, at the end, or when you are waiting for the kettle to boil. Focus on moving your spine from the neck to the lower back and opening the chest and shoulders. Remember to keep moving rather than trying to improve your flexibility (that takes longer!).
- Fake commute – We know the tube at rush hour is nobodies favourite but without going into the office, you are moving A LOT less. Try getting up 20 minutes earlier, grabbing a coffee, and walking around your local common.
- Take one call outside – Could you grab your headphones and take work outside? A change of scenery from those same four walls can help to re-focus the brain benefiting your productivity at work as well as your physical health.
Did we mention that movement is so important for physical and mental health? Give the above changes a go and see how this can benefit your day. If you are experiencing any pain and need relief or guidance, we are still here in the clinic for you!