The new normal…what even is that supposed to mean? We’re all trying to figure it out, right?
Indeed, with people now in their twelfth week of working from home, the return to ‘normal’, old or new, still seems a way off. In fact, nearly one in 10 Brits expect to remain working from home indefinitely.
With home offices less ergonomically design-focused than your standard office (your dog fronting the HR department probably isn’t going to install that new wrist supporting keyboard you’ve been coveting), those #wfh are having to adapt to their surroundings in inventive ways.
Marc Holl, Professional Head of Physiotherapy at Nuffield Health says: “Lockdown happened so quickly that a lot of people were simply not properly equipped to work from home for a prolonged period. The challenge with working from soft surfaces such as sofas and beds is that they don’t provide good lumbar (lower back) support.
And with laptops on laps, as we hunch over to read and type, we’re placing greater strain on our neck and shoulders. Under normal circumstances, people may work from home like this every once in a while, but over a prolonged period like lockdown, the odd muscular niggle in backs, necks and shoulders can start to turn into a daily dull ache. Not only can this physical pain cause discomfort, but it can also begin to impact people’s mental health, especially as they continue to face uncertainty about when they can return to normal working conditions.”
If we’re in this thing for the long haul, then it’s time you made some adjustments to your space and routine. With the help of Marc Holl, here are 5 tips to help bad posture when working from home.
START & FINISH YOUR DAY BY STRETCHING OUT YOUR BACK
To start your day, it’s really useful to get into the habit of doing a couple of simple stretches to loosen yourself up.
Firstly, try a back flexion stretch. While lying flat on your back (you can do this on the floor or on the bed), hug both knees into your chest and flex your head towards your knees, so you’re curled up in a ball. Hold it for 10 seconds.
Next, it’s time for side bends. While standing, slowly slide your hands down the side of each leg, going as far as you can until you feel any stretch or discomfort. Hold for 10 seconds and ease yourself back to standing. Repeat on the other side.
Once you’ve finished your working day, it’s also important to undertake some stretches to unwind, destress and mark the transition to home life. Check out our tips on 5 IDEAL stretches to help you relax after a day in the office.
Here at IDEAL we’re fans of doing a quick morning yoga session. Youtube is fantastic way to get started, and it’s free, too. Here you’ll find everything from energising morning routines to a session for desk related mid-day relief, a relaxing evening number, or even guided practices to help you with your sleep. Perhaps the best way forward, we think, is a mix of all three, representing the best of all worlds.
PERFECT YOUR POSTURE
Whether working at your kitchen table or from your sofa (just don’t), there are small tricks you can implement to help your posture.
Ensure your bottom is as far back in the chair/couch as it can be and that your monitor is at eye level. Otherwise, you’ll be straining to see your screen, leaning in, hunching your shoulders, and generally doing yourself no favours at all.
If your desk is too low for this, use a couple of books or board games to raise the height of your laptop/monitor and if you’re on the sofa, use a cushion. When working from your sofa, in particular, ensure your knees are at a 90 degree vertical bend; you might need to rest your feet on a cushion to do this. To create better lumbar support, roll up a towel or use a small cushion and place it in the small of your back.
MAKE YOUR WORKSTATION AS COMFORTABLE AS POSSIBLE
You’ve spent, and are going to be spending, so much time at your makeshift office desk; why not endeavour to make it more comfortable and ergonomically sound, then?
There are various items you can purchase to make your desk as comfortable as possible; a laptop riser stand, external keyboard and mouse, an orthopaedic seat and footrest are a good place to start.
Also, try to work near a window to get some natural sunlight to make your lockdown workstation a happier place to spend time, too. Make sure you manage the light just right, to prevent digital eye strain wherever possible.
TAKE A BREAK FROM YOUR MAKESHIFT DESK EVERY 30 MINUTES
Keeping your body moving allows the blood to flow, lets your muscles stretch and also gives your eyes a rest. If you’re short on time, try a simple 5 minute workout to help you stay active and break up the day, enabling you to boost concentration and promote good health (and you don’t need to change your clothes to perform the exercises). Here goes:
- Walking High Knees (1 minute)
- 10 x Shoulder Circles
- 10 x Arm Circles
- 10 x Squat
- 10 x Reverse Lunge Reach Back
- 10 x Low Side to Side Lunge
Wonderful water; is there anything it can’t do? Indeed, keeping hydrated is crucial to keeping healthy and fit, so aim for 8 glasses by 8pm as a bare minimum.
Not only will this help to keep you switched on and better able to concentrate, but it will also help to keep headaches and eye strain at bay, too. Fill up a glass of water or your water bottle in the morning and make sure to keep this topped up throughout the day every time it becomes empty.