Work Safe, Working from Home
There is no denying it; with this recent lockdown, a lot of things have changed. For the most part, we're all navigating uncharted waters.
Whether you are home-schooling children, working from home or caring for those less able, we all need to be aware of our actions and how these affect our health and wellbeing.
Our dependence on technology within the next four weeks is likely to be higher than ever. People reach for portable electronic devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops to remain socially connected and employable.
This increased reliance on technology combined with more extended periods of use can lead to an increased prevalence of postural low back and neck pain. Such injuries typically occur because, unlike with desktop computers, we usually do not use portable devices within an ergonomic workstation setup. The size of the screen, distance to the keyboard or microphone and height of the monitor often leads people to hunch over. On top of that, we often forget to stop and move around or change position.
Working at home means we may have fewer distractions and breaks. Positions held for too long can result in pain and discomfort, most commonly experienced in the neck or back. You can easily avoid strain and discomfort by regularly taking scheduled breaks, changing position frequently, establishing good routines and stretching often.
Keep in mind the other factors that can contribute to the experience of pain and discomfort. We know that there is a strong link between both physical and psychosocial work and individual factors that impact our experience of pain and discomfort. Now it is particularly important to recognise these other factors, especially in this environment.
So what can we do to prevent postural related pain and discomfort?
Put structure back into your day. Create a schedule that includes regular mealtimes and breaks, as if you were going through your regular workday. Consistency is key to not going stir-crazy.
Take Active Breaks. Each break, go for a walk up and down the house several times, have a dance battle with the kids, walk to the letterbox or perform ten squats while waiting for the jug to boil. The key to avoiding posture driven discomfort is to get moving! Get active to mix up the monotony of sitting.
Modify your workstation. Where possible, use a docking station or desktop computer. If you need to use your phone or mobile device, try raising it toward eye-level. Holding your phone higher can help to reduce the potential stress and strain on your neck. When at home, raise laptops on pillows to reduce hunching. Seek advice from one of our team. Our Occupational nurses and OT’s can check your workstation and provide tips and tricks via videoconferencing.
Keep social connections alive. Keep in touch with your friends and loved ones, using tools like Facetime, Zoom, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.
Practice mindfulness. Utilising mindfulness and relaxation practices can help you to get a good night's sleep! Reach out to a Habit psychologist if you need some help with this.
Stay flexible. Perform daily stretches to retain mobility and flexibility. Please see the below:
Image courtesy Blue Zones Project by Healthways.
In summary, you may experience aches and pains from adjusting to working from home, but there are solutions available to help. Habit clinicians are ready and able to provide further guidance for those niggly aches and pains over the lockdown period. Call us on 0800 557 556 to make an appointment.
By Kate Clayton BPhty, PGCertRehab, COMT, MPNZ and Naomi Faulknor PGCert Rehab BPHTY
Kate is a lead physiotherapist at Habit in Wellington. Naomi is executive of clinical services and practicing physiotherapist at Habit in Wellington.
- Amy Cuddy, "Your iPhone Is Ruining Your Posture — and Your Mood", New York Times Sunday Review, Dec 12, 2015
- Becca Ferguson, "Neck & iPosture Issues", Mindful Alexander Technique
- KK Hansraj, "Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head.",Surgery Technology International., Nov 25, 2014:277-9
- "Smartphone addiction creating a generation of teenage hunchbacks”, New Zealand Herald, Sunday, Oct 18, 2015
- B. Cagnie, L. Danneels, D. Van Tiggelen, V. De Loose, D. Cambier Individual and work related risk factors for neck pain among office workers: a cross sectional study, European Spine Journal volume 16, pages679–686(2007)