Currently there are many people working from home for the first time. But some are telling me that they are starting to have neck,back or upper limb pain from sitting at a less than ideal work set up at home.So here are a few pointers to help you avoid the discomfort that can so easily lead to longer term injury and time off work …..

Make sure your workstation is set up correctly ...

  • Use a monitor or laptop stand/screen raise with a separate mouse and keyboard to ensure you keep your body and head are in the correct position.
  • Your eye line ideally should fall within the top third of your screen and your keyboard should be flat on the desk and aligned with your forearm.
  • Your feet should be flat on the floor or footrest and your chair at a height where you thighs are parallel to the floor or knees slightly lower than your hips.
  • There should be a 2-3 finger gap between the back of your knees and the edge of the seat.

Move about and stand up regularly as sitting for long periods can put twice as much pressure on your spine as standing and can also reduce blood flow. There are other ill health effects as well. Stand or have a stretch every 30 minutes or at least every hour for a few minutes.

A Microsoft study recently reported that individual working productivity was boosted by 25% when they encouraged their employees to stand for short periods at work.

Ten top tips

1. Use ergonomic adjustments

These are simple and can be low or no cost.

Use a hands free facility or headset when you’re on the phone. This can reduce risk of neck or back pain by up to 42%.

Buy a chair with as many ergonomic features on it as you can to suit your size and height. Adjust it correctly to suit you. Many people simply do not adjust their chair.

Sit with minimal slouch, face your work or laptop and computer screen to avoid spinal twisting causing pressure on your discs.

Ensure you work correctly and comfortably at your desk, table or computer. This could be as simple as adjusting the desk or chair to the right height to reduce the risk of slouching, over reaching or twisting.

2. Create a separate workspace

Aim to have a dedicated workspace that is yours and keep it just for work or, even better, if you can,have a separate office at home. Try to avoid the bedroom as an office or workplace. Working in the bedroom makes it difficult to switch off and sleep.

3. Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle

This will help prevent pain or other illnesses. Smoking and being overweight increases the chances of developing back pain. Drinking more water or fluids during the day can help ease back pain and boost productivity. Aim for 8 glasses of water a day.Drinking the equivalent of coffee doesn’t count because it acts as a diuretic and flushes more water out! Exercise every day. Walking and exercise not only stretches the back muscles to reduce tension but it releases serotonin, also known as one of the happy hormones, in our brain.

4.Snack sensibly

Homeworkers can easily become grazers, often with unhealthy snacks. Have to hand fruit, nuts or veggies. Eat a lunch and take refreshment breaks so you keep up a healthy pattern.

5. Ditch distractions

If you are able to, turn off your phone even just for a few minutes or better still for a few hours a day.Schedule a set time when you will respond to emails, webinars or calls. This keeps you in control of your day and helps boost your productivity. Tell others so they know when best to reach you. Remove social networks from your toolbar so as to keep distractions to a minimum.

6. Keep your work and home life separate

Aim to protect your weekends or two days a week. Switch off mentally. Avoid reading work material or looking at your laptop or computer at least an hour before you sleep.

Likewise, ensure your homelife does not impact on your work; as tempting as it may be, try to limit household chores or shopping. Most chores can still be done at weekends or outside work hours. Hanging out laundry or switching on the washing machine is fine, however having a major clear out or watching TV will get you behind with your targets and your profits! It’s also often a way of avoiding confronting things that need to be done.

7. Stay social

Whilst one advantage from home working is less distraction, some people say it can feel isolating. Meet people ( virtually if not face to face) during a lunch break or sometime during your week, communicate with colleagues.

8. Rest, relax and routine

Maintain a work life balance. Plan regular breaks 15 minutes mid morning, half an hour or hour for lunch and 15 minutes in the afternoon. Change posture and tasks often.

Stick to a routine or timetable. Plan your day, prioritise tasks and set goals to help create a good routine. Leave space for “me time” to relax —physically and mentally. Also leave “wiggle room” for those unexpected work emergencies or tasks that cannot wait. Work when you most feel productive. Focus the most complex tasks during time of day when you feel at your best.

9. Window-gazing

Treat yourself and set aside five minutes and enjoy it. Even if your job is tax accountancy or business copywriting, this small breathing space can allow unexpected ideas or solutions to problems to swim into your mind.

10. Dress up

Pretend you are actually going into the office so you will feel more like you are working rather than remaining in your sleepwear or PJ’s.

Written by Maria Morris, Senior Ergonomics Consultant, Ergocom and WorkrightatHome and Sue Godby Director, Ergocom and WorkrightatHome