Work From Home Setup… The Real Deal

These days our beautifully engineered ergonomic office set-up is now…shall we say flexible. Ranging from any flat-ish surface, where you can plonk your laptop and read a few emails to maybe something that resembles a desk. If you are lucky enough, you may have a great home office, however, many of us are finding ourselves working from our kitchen tables, coffee table, couch or child’s bed as he logs onto his google classroom (I may be speaking from experience). We are now working from different setups, locations, devices and at different times of the day as we juggle the requirements of working from home and possibly remote home learning. So, in reality, your desk setup may look like a 5:30 am quiet session with a coffee before the kids wake up, to catching up on emails on the kitchen table amongst a sea of lego or 9:40 pm plonked at your desk typing away while having a red and indulging in some dark chocolate (again…I may be talking from experience).

It all sounds and looks like a bit of a pickle, and to be truthful, it is far from ideal. However, it is not as much of a big deal as we have conventionally been taught and we can all cut ourselves a bit of slack. In all the years of research, no one posture can be linked and blamed as a cause of neck or back pain. We do, however, recognise that sustained postures can contribute to pain, so if you can just remember Your Next Posture Is your Best Posture. Meaning… move and change your position often.

I know I am flying in the face of a long-standing belief, so to help strengthen my argument, consider the below photo.

The cyclist is considered healthy, athletic and strong. It is very normal that a cyclist rides their bike for hours on end, however, we start to get concerned when an office worker sits at their desk for more than 50 minutes. The key thing to remember here is movement. The cyclist is constantly moving, doing head checks, standing up and peddling and leaning into and out of corners. Therefore, all we need to do as desk workers is to move often and change positions. So with that being said, I think we can all give ourselves a little slack for doing the odd bit of work at the kitchen bench, or couch, as long as it isn’t hours on end.

That being said we have noticed patterns of injuries presenting into the clinic over the last few months, where clients are reporting more headaches, neck pain, sore wrists and elbows, tight hips and back pain. These presentations are more of a representation of a lack of incidental movement the office environment innately provides and the fact that the body has experienced a rapid change in its demand along with a good dose of stress, poorer sleep, different movement patterns and exercise regimes. Our bodies don’t like surprises.

Our new way of working and living is what it is. So I thought I would give you a few easy tips to implement into your day, encouraging you to move more and not feel so guilty about your sub-optimal ergonomic desk set up.

  1. Ditch your water bottle from your desk. Instead, have half a glass of water and once you have finished it, get up and half fill it again.
  2. Stand up and walk around your room whenever you receive a phone call.
  3. If you are a person that has to dial into many meetings in your day. Can you listen to your meeting while you walk around the block?
  4. Schedule your exercise and workouts into your calendar and treat it like an important meeting.
  5. Prioritize the big rocks in your jar… Sleep, nutrition, exercise and connection.

Lastly, be kind to yourself. You are doing a great job!
If you have any questions or feel that you may need our help it would be great to have a chat. Feel free to give me a buzz at the clinic.

Amy O’Shannassy
Principal Physiotherapist

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