Physical Hazards of Working from Home - Update
As I predicted in my April blog, many people are feeling the effects of working from home, where workplace setups are often inadequate, they work longer hours, and sit for longer periods before taking a break. The result has been that we are seeing many more people than usual with persistent neck and upper back pain and with both acute and chronic low back pain. Luckily, most cases are easy to manage with manual therapy, exercises, and adjustments to ergonomics and routines.
Some useful advice we can give our patients in these circumstances includes:
1. Borrow equipment from work. Chances are a lot of office equipment is sitting idle in under-manned workplaces. Ergonomic chairs, document holders, and even desk-mounted sit-to-stand workstations are reasonably easy to transport.
2. If using a laptop, set up a ‘stand-up-desk’ station using a bench with a box or other devices to ensure the correct working height. The laptop has the advantage of allowing easy adjustment between sitting and standing positions.
3. Seek expert advice or do a Google search on tips for efficient ergonomic set-up.
4. Stand-up, and even walk around during Zoom meetings and phone calls. In the office, workers get up to walk to meetings and to talk to colleagues. All work tasks at home can be performed at the desk, so it is important workers recognize this discrepancy and make a concerted effort to take every opportunity to change position.
5. Set an alarm on the computer to remind them to get up at least every hour, even for just a few minutes.
6. Take a break during the day to do some stretches and other exercises. This may be easier to achieve in the home office.
7. If work allows flexibility, schedule appointments that are not ‘desk related’ for during the day.
8. Set a reasonable time limit for when the workday ends and stick to it. Not having to travel means many people are starting work earlier and finishing significantly later.
9. Exercise routines outside the home are even more important now with work becoming increasingly sedentary. A brisk walk, a swim, or a trip to the gym will be incredibly restorative at the end of a working day.
Working from home may now be the ‘new normal’ for many people. This will have advantages, but many challenges. We may need to help them to adapt to the physical and psychological implications of these changes.