Updated: May 7, 2020
With the recent Covid-19 pandemic working from home is now become a necessity for most Canadians. A stat from 2017 estimated that 1.7 million Canadians work from home. That stat DOES NOT include the self-employed . I think it is safe to say that number has skyrocketed over the last few weeks.
With the sudden emergence of the pandemic many of us have put together makeshift offices and maybe working from couches, beds, or kitchen tables. Most home offices are simply not conducive to expensive and big ergonomic furniture. In addition to more work from home, isolation restrictions on social outings, recreational activities, and shopping have stopped us from leaving the house.
These major changes in our lives create a perfect storm for a sedentary lifestyle and work environment which can lead to deterioration of our mental and physical well-being. Many at-home workers have recently been experiencing increased aches and pains such as low back pain, neck pain, and headaches.
The at-home office maybe the way we do business in the future.
Although this may seem like bad news for those individuals suffering from new aches and pains there is some good news. With a few minor changes, we do not need to rely on expensive ergonomic furniture to save us.
5 of our favourite home office tips
1. Movement is your friend: The more variation in movement throughout the day the better. I like to think about movement in 2 ways.
a. Macro Movement: this is the type of movement we often think is most important. This is deliberate exercise you perform in the day to help increase your strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular system. The best types of exercise for someone suffering from pain is stretching, walking, and activities such as yoga. Try spreading this throughout the day for the best results. A quick stretch in the morning, a short walk at lunch, and another stretch or walk in the evening may be the perfect routine to reduce your pain.
b. Micro movement (mini-breaks): this is the smaller movements someone can incorporate while at their workstation. The worst posture for someone in pain is usually the one that they spend the most time in. So, if you find yourself working from your kitchen table for most of the day you may want to stand for a few minutes or move to your kitchen counter. If you are confined to one chair all day then it is good to set a timer for every 30-60 minutes and perform a few arm circles, low back, or neck stretches.
1. Adjust your workstation: Poor office posture can be a major cause of pain. There are two simple and effective changes one can make to their computer workstation.
a. Adjust your computer monitor to eye level: this will maintain a good posture in the neck. This will greatly reduce neck strain and headaches.
b. Keep your back against the back of the seat: this maintains good posture in the lower back which will help reduce low back pain. If your back cannot reach the backrest, then roll up a towel or pillow and place it in the small of the back
2. Put your monitor perpendicular to a window: In a perfect world if you have a window it would be at your side. This would provide great natural light which will help your physical and mental well-being and energy level. Also, it avoids glares hitting your computer screen which causes unnecessary eye strain leading to headaches and soreness.
3. Prioritize your hydration: Sufficient water intake is vital for our cell processes in the body. If we are dehydrated throughout the day, we are more likely to suffer headaches and have low energy. Having low energy means being more sedentary throughout the day. The added bathroom breaks and trips to the water cooler is a good thing; remember any movement is generally your friend.
4. Prioritize your nutrition: Having a good diet can solve a lot of our problems. By increasing our intake of vegetables, healthy fats, and protein we can avoid vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals can cause muscle pain, spasms, numbness, tingling, and headaches.
A poor diet rich in sugar and unhealthy fats will cause blood sugar fluctuations, weight gain, and decreased energy. Working from home makes it hard to make the right nutritional choices however, it is important to fill the house with nutritious food and create good eating habits.
Working from home may be the way of the future. Try to slowly incorporate these 5 tips into your work routine to avoid pain. As always these are general statements that should apply to most individuals. However, if you have a pre-existing condition or severe pain you may require treatment and a tailor-made approach.