Working from Home Ergonomics

Working from Home Ergonomics

In the past few weeks, many businesses that are able to have encouraged their staff to work from home to comply with Australia’s Social Distancing laws surrounding COVID-19.

For many, this would only be a minor adjustment with a small percentage of Australians already working from home full time or a couple of days a week. According to a survey conducted by Gartner, this volume has now jumped to 88% of organisations now encouraging or requiring their staff to work from home.

In response to this shift, many employees have purchased equipment and tools to set up a home office and companies are utilising technology more than ever to communicate with their staff and their customers. There have been many articles published explaining which tech or gadgets to buy or what to wear when working from home but there has not been much discussion around how to work from home, while taking ergonomics and your physical health into consideration.

Headaches, back, neck, shoulder and arm pain are just some of the symptoms one can experience while working from home. In addition, muscle and joint problems can occur as a result of a poor work station.

So, whether you have gone to Bunnings or Officeworks and got yourself fully set up or are just working from a coffee table in your living room, we have some top tips for you to lower the risk of injury or problems later in life.

Firstly, let’s take look at composure and what you need to ensure your posture is correct.

  1. Follow the 90-90 rule by positioning your elbows, hips, knees, and ankles in a 90 degree position for optimal alignment.
  2. Keep your feet flat on the floor so that it distributes your weight evenly. Dangling feet cause pressure on the legs, making other body parts compensate. Use a footrest if your feet do not reach the floor.
  3. Choose a good chair and make sure your bottom is positioned all the way to the back of the chair.
  4. Keep your wrists straight, relaxed and in a neutral position in line with your forearm. When typing, the best practice is to keep your wrists floating rather than resting on the table. The use of a wrist pad may be assistive.
  5. Position the top of your computer screen at eye level to prevent eye and neck strain.
  6. Perform back, shoulder, and wrist stretches and shoulder shrugs at least every hour to prevent body strain and stress.

If you follow these instructions, you will greatly reduce the risk of injuring yourself while working from home. But what should you do if you are already experiencing pain? Below we look at some of the common injuries one might experience while working from home and how you can treat these.

General neck pain and or Headaches

Possible Causes:

  • Chin forward posture
  • Screen too low
  • Slouching while you sit

What does look like?

working from homes at a desk

Let’s correct your posture

  • Shoulders should be relaxed and low and not reaching forward
  • Lumbar support should be adjusted to align with lower back curve
  • Armrests (if you have them) adjusted to elbow height (elbows bent to 90 degrees as per 90-90 rule)
  • Hips should be slightly higher than knees
  • 5-8 cm of space behind knee and front edge of seat
  • Monitors should be 45-32cm away
  • Keyboard and mouse should be at elbow height
  • Wrists straight
  • 90 to 120 degree angle between legs and hip
  • Feet should be supported on the floor
  • Sit tall and keep chin in and shoulders back
  • If possible, get a monitor or elevate your laptop with a few books so it is as eye level as possible

Try this chin tuck exercise when you experience neck pain or headaches :

  • Sit tall and tuck your chin in and back
  • Keep your head up and looking straight forward
  • Try not to nod your head
  • Tuck chin in (as if trying to give yourself a double chin)
  • Push back and raise head up to stretch spine up
  • Hold for 1-2 seconds
  • Repeat 10 times and perform every hour you work on your computer

General upper back and shoulder pain

Possible Causes:

  • Chin forward posture
  • Screen too low
  • Slouching while you sit
  • Keypad and/or mouse too far away

Try this chin tuck exercise when you experience neck pain or headaches

  • First make sure you have followed the posture recommendations so far
  • Roll your shoulders up and back to reverse the slouch

Pain on one side of your neck/shoulder

Possible Causes:

  • Using 2 screens with one screen to one side or reference material on the desk to one side
  • This causes repetitive turning to one side and tightening and pain of the muscles on that side

Try this neck tilt exercise when you experience neck pain or headaches

  • Place your hand over your head with the other hand behind your back or under your buttock if you are sitting and gently pull sideways and slightly forward.
  • Feel the stretch on the side you are pulling away from.

If you would like to learn more or are experiencing ongoing pain and discomfort, speak to your local Physiotherapist.