More people than ever are working from home, and if you weren’t allowed to take your fancy office chair home with you, you might be feeling some aches and pains. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a standing desk or high-end chair. Here are four low cost, easy tips for a healthier home office space:
1. Make Your Computer Work With You
If your computer is lower than eye level, you will naturally hunch or lean forward as you work. This puts a strain on your neck and upper back and can lead to serious pain. Sit in front of your computer in the chair you are planning to use, and make sure your feet are on the floor and your knees are bent at a ninety-degree angle. You may have to adjust the height of your chair to achieve this. Now, look at your computer screen. Can you hold your neck in a vertical position, slightly tilted back, and see your screen easily? If not, it needs some adjusting. You can buy a laptop riser or use books to raise your laptop or monitor so you can easily view it without bending your neck forward.
For people working on a laptop, this might create another problem. Your arms and wrists are now at an uncomfortable angle as you type. The solution? Buy an external keyboard and mouse and set them up below your monitor so that your arms are extended in a neutral position– straight and almost flush with the desk or table. You may remember learning in typing class to keep your wrists slightly raised. This keeps your arms in a neutral position instead of allowing your elbows to sink down. There are affordable keyboards that include a wrist pad to help you keep your arms supported. You can also get keyboards that are not flat and help keep your hands in an ergonomic position.
2. Modify Your Chair
It’s alright to use a cheap office chair or even a kitchen table chair as long as you make a few simple modifications. The best posture to assume while working is similar to how we sit while driving a car. Feet on the floor, legs slightly extended and body leaning back slightly. To recreate this position at your desk, you need a chair that’s the right height for you, so your knees bend at a ninety-degree angle, and your feet can touch the floor. If your chair is not adjustable, you can place your feet on a footstool or use cushions or orthopedic posture seats to raise you up slightly and put your pelvis in a healthier position. Lumbar support will save your back and help you achieve the right posture. You can use a small pillow or a rolled-up towel and place it behind your lower back or buy a ready-made lumbar support cushion.
As long as the rest of your body is aligned properly, you don’t need to have support behind your head, but if it makes you more comfortable to rest your head back, make sure you are remaining in a neutral position and not slouching or leaning back too far. You can buy headrests that attach to certain types of shorter style office chairs, but they are not necessary.
Once you have your chair set up so your back is supported and you’re sitting in that optimal position, take a look at your computer screen and make any adjustments necessary to keep it at eye level.
3. Cultivate Healthy Habits
Sitting in and of itself is not bad for you as long as you are using good posture, but sitting for an extended period has been linked to higher rates of metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes. One of the best things about working from home is that most people are not as micromanaged as they are in the office. Take advantage of this and create some healthy workday behaviors. Some people find that setting a timer for every hour and standing up when it goes off helps them feel better at the end of the workday. You could also go refill your water bottle or make a cup of tea. A short stretch or walk will get your blood flowing and help prevent the detrimental effects of sitting for eight hours straight.
Even in an ergonomic position, certain parts of your body are under strain when you sit all day. You may notice your hamstrings (backs of your thighs) are tight. Using your once an hour five-minute break to stretch your legs may help you feel better. One simple hamstring stretch you can do at home is to lie on the floor on your back, stretch one leg out in front of you with your heel on the floor and raise your other leg up as straight as you can get it. Hold for fifteen to thirty seconds and then repeat on the other side. This stretch is also good for your hip flexors and lower back.
If you feel that you have a previous injury from working without the ergonomic adjustments you’ve now made, getting a chiropractic adjustment can ease your pain and help you give your back a fresh start. Now is a good time to get your spine in proper alignment so you’re newly designed office can keep it that way.
4. Don’t Go In Half-Way
To truly be comfortable in your working environment and protect your back from injury, you need to make all the adjustments on this list. Having your chair set up perfectly won’t help you if you are still hunching over to look at your computer screen. Additionally, having the perfect office set up can’t protect you from the dangers of sitting for eight hours without a break. The key to a healthy working environment is to set up an ergonomic office space and then actively take care of yourself during your workday by standing, stretching, and staying hydrated. Your body will thank you.