With the current coronavirus lockdown situation in the UK, the majority of the British workforce has been forced to acknowledge social distancing rules and work from home. With the possibility of this type of work continuing beyond lockdown, the world may very well change how it does business so a shift to increased home working will need adapting to.
Whilst many office environments are set up to be ergonomically correct, many home offices are not, some understandably don’t even have anything that remotely resembles an office. Therefore this puts a lot of people at risk to repetitive strain or postural fatigue related ailments and the need for advice on the right type of set up to minimise pain and discomfort has never been greater.
Before Lockdown, around 50% of office workers were reportedly affected by backpain and this stat will no doubt have increased since then. The good news is, adjustments can be made and measures can be put in place to better protect your body and stave off the side effects associated with poor office set up and posture at your desk.
Minimise Aches And Pains By Setting Your Office Up Correctly
Setting Up Your Chair
- Raise or lower your seat so your desk height is at elbow height
- Adjust your chair height so your feet are comfortably flat on the floor with your thighs horizontal and your lower legs approximately vertical
- Adjust your chair height so your hips are at an angle greater than 90˚
- Your hips should be a little higher than your knees and your thighs should slope downwards slightly
- If adjusting your chair means your feet no longer rest comfortably on the floor use a foot rest
- Set the tilt of your chair (if available) to horizontal initially. The best position is tilting forward slightly as tilting backwards causes slumping and should be avoided.
- Move the backrest so the chairs lumbar support is at the curve of your lower back. If this is not possible then use a separate lumbar roll for support
- Change the angle of your backrest by using your body weight to lean back against it until a comfortable position is found.
- If you use the armrests they must be at the right height
- Arm rests should not be so high that they cause your shoulders to push up
- Arm rests should not stop you from getting as close to the desk as you need to and they should not interfere with your elbows.
- Use a foot rest if you feel pressure under your thighs from the front edge of your seat
- A foot rest also helps to address lower back fatigue when you are sitting for long periods
- Try pushing your feet into the foot rest as this helps to push your back into the back rest of the chair which provides better support.
Setting Up Your Desk
- Do not place documents between the keyboard and the front edge of your desk as this may cause excessive bending of the neck when looking at the documents
- If possible use a document holder or book stand
- Reorganise your desk layout so frequently used objects are closer to you in an area known as your primary reach area.
Your computer screen:
- Position your screen, after positioning your chair and desk, so that it is in front of you, not to one side
- Position your screen so the top is level with or slightly lower than your eyes when sitting upright; raise or lower the screen to achieve this
- Your monitor should be at least an arms length away from your seated position.
Your mouse, keyboard and telephone:
- Place these items in the primary reach area of your desk as you use them most often
- Keep your elbows bent when reaching for the mouse
- Your forearm should rest on the desk when your hand is on the mouse and glide over the desk when using it
- Train yourself to use a mouse with either hand
- Learn keyboard short cuts for frequent mouse activities and reduce your use of the mouse
- Place the mouse directly in front of you and use your other hand for keyboard activities
- Do not grip or hover your hand over the mouse when not in use; rest it on the mouse or desk
- Consider placing your telephone on your non-dominate side of the computer but do not reach across your body to answer it – use your non-dominant hand
- If you often have frequent or long phone calls, consider using a headset
- Do not cradle your phone between your shoulder and your ear as this puts a strain on your neck.
If you regularly use a laptop raise the screen to the correct height, as detailed above, and use a standard keyboard instead of the laptop keyboard as laptops were designed for short term or mobile use and so may not be suitable for the office.
Clutter on and around your desk may interfere with the space around you causing you to adopt awkward postures to accommodate and resulting in pain.
Rest and exercise:
Our bodies are not designed to sit in one position for long periods of time, even with a correctly designed workstation, so take regular rest and exercise beaks. If possible take these breaks before you become tired or any pain begins (every 20-30 minutes).
You may also benefit from doing simple exercises during your breaks as this will allow you to stretch and move muscles which have been in the same restricted position for a long time.
For more tips on posture and how to move more, click → HERE ← to refer back to a previous blog on the matter.