Not many had planned for the entire country to end up on forced lockdown for more than a couple of weeks; now a couple of months at home seems to be optimistic. Rather than office desks and chairs, most people are having to choose between sofas, beds, kitchen tables or the floor - moving less than ever before in smaller spaces. And this will have a devastating impact on our bodies. So with limited resources, how do you comfortably work from home?
Firstly, whatever you do, don’t work from your sofa for extended periods of time. Most significantly the sofa will damage your posture. This can lead to back and neck pain. And, separate your work and play space. If you perceive your sofa to be an area to relax on, you’ll struggle to work there with full focus. Alternatively, you’ll start to get accustomed to working in the area and will struggle to relax there during breaks or in the evenings.
If you can keep your work space away from where you’ll spend the rest of your time, your overall mental state will be able to keep somewhat sane and rational. So where does it make sense for your work space to be? A spare bedroom or living room? Wherever it is, do your best to separate it from the rest of the house.
Another key factor to a successful work space is a good desk and chair setup.
“Ultimately all employers have a statutory duty of care for their employees’ health and safety,” says Shah Qureshi, head of employment and professional discipline at law firm Irwin Mitchell. “And what they have is a duty to provide a safe place to work. And that includes the right equipment to ensure that they can work safely. When I mean equipment, I'm not just talking about things like laptops and electronic devices, but of course, the correct chair and proper table.”
In the short term, because of the urgency of this situation, employers may not have been able to do this for practical reasons, Qureshi concedes. “But certainly in the medium to long term — and it looks like it may well be the case — they need to conduct proper risk assessments of their employees' working environment.”
“If you can’t get the keyboard and mouse, if you can’t get the monitor or the ergonomic chair, it’s important to mix it up,” explains Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet. “Hook up your TV as your monitor for a bit if you have an HDMI cable. Work from the kitchen counter, standing up or if you don’t have that, put an ironing board up to standing height and put it against the wall to stop it wobbling around and use that for a bit. If you’re on a dining room chair, put a cushion under your bottom to pad the seat. If this means your feet don’t touch the floor, put another cushion or a box to avoid straining your legs.
And finally, as always, take regular breaks. For every 30 minutes of staring at a computer screen, take a minute to rest your eyes and to get up and stretch.
Dr. Todd Sinett, a Manhattan chiropractor, suggests a dozen repetitions of two stretches:
While sitting, put your thumbs in your armpits, elbows pointing down, and lean back.
Stand, raise your arms above your head, and bend back into a shallow backbend.