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With the current world situations that force us to be socially distancing and thanks to improved remote working technology and 24/7 connectivity, the dream of working from home has now become a reality (or a new hell for those extroverts). Additionally, the employee demand for flexibility, the possibility of cost-saving opportunities for companies, a large percent (up to 60%) of companies are now allowing the ability for employees to work remotely from home on an occasional or regular basis found by the latest benefits survey from the Society for Human Resource Management.
Twenty years ago, only twenty percent of companies offered remote working options. And in America, employees are taking advantage of these changes.
In a Gallup poll released earlier this year, forty three percent of Americans reported that they spent at least some time working remotely. Now add these individuals to the entrepreneurs and online business owners and it appears this trend of working from home is growing and here to stay.
Given these increasing numbers, it is important to consider that working from the comforts of your home may not always be comfortable. As Baseline Health and Wellness Inc. is a team of Vancouver Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Registered Massage Therapists and Kinesiologists, we spend a lot of our visits educating clients about their work environment and how it could be impacting their health and conditions. The majority of those discussions are geared towards office workstations where the employee likely has a designated workstation with a desktop computer and comfortable (or not so comfortable) office chair.
However, proper ergonomics should not only be targeted at an office but should extend to all areas that clients work from. These could include your home, neighborhood coffee shop or just somewhere on the road if you are a frequent traveler. Although proper office ergonomics will be covered in another blog, there are some important things to consider when working remotely compared to at the office.
When we ask our clients who work from home to describe their workstation setup, very few tell us that they have a separate home office with a desk. Typically, they report working from a less then optimal couch or kitchen table that causes them to slouch over a laptop. To top that off, we’ve even had patients report that they work on their laptop while lying in bed! We’ll state it here to start, Laptops are great for portability not for comfort and ergonomic use. Laptop use can lead to a variety of both immediate and long-term injuries.
The most ideal device at home is having a desktop set up with an adjustable office chair, a monitor set at eye height and adjustable as well and of course a sit to stand desk. However, how many people have this luxury to set up a home office let alone thousands of dollars in office equipment (although it is a worthwhile investment for your health!).
Instead, we are now a society that values portability and ease of use above all other features. So the laptop, even though it is often times much more expensive, becomes our computer of choice. The first challenge is that laptops are attached to the keyboard and so in order to type you have to look down at the screen. Proper ergonomics on a traditional monitor are optimal when your eyes are in line with the top 1/3 of the monitor while maintaining proper posture.
Secondly, the hands, wrists and forearms can be put under a lot of strain due to the laptops tending to be ever shrinking devices and the keyboard shrinks as a result that makes it terrible for typing.
Lastly, since the keyboard is attached to the laptop screen, and most people tend to want to keep a normal distance away from their screen to decrease eye strain, this causes the user to have to reach forward to type. This reaching position will undoubtedly force the user to collapse into a rounded sitting posture and put excessive stress on the upper back and neck as well.
Despite the shortcomings that are inherent to laptops, there are certain steps you can take to improve your ergonomics and prevent injuries when using a laptop.
- Set up your workstation on a stable and flat surface such as your kitchen counter or dining table
- It is important to have an adjustable chair so that you can have optimal body positioning and the correct height while sitting especially if the surface you’re using is not adjustable (multiple chair heights may work in a pinch!)
- If you are using a laptop, unfortunately many ergonomic features are sacrificed for the portability including the keyboard size, screen size and position, and the mouse are all poorly designed. It is also near impossible to have any proper posture while using a laptop with a fixed keyboard. So use a desktop if possible!
- If you are stuck with using your laptop, here are a few things that can help make it more ergonomic.
a) Use an external monitor at eye level and attach it to the laptop so now you have separated the screen from your laptop to your laptop keyboard and mouse.
b) Use a laptop stand (or stack up books) so that the laptop screen is at eye level and then attach a external mouse and keyboard (bluetooth is the most portable) to create the same detachment of monitor to keyboard (this works for travelers as well!) Wireless keyboards come in all shapes and sizes and you can get one for as low as $20.
Creating a better ergonomic home environment is easy if you follow some of the steps we have outlined above. Additionally, you can find more information on our full page about desk ergonomics or better yet, try our free self ergonomic assessment. These will help improve productivity and the quality of your work, but will also help prevent stress and injury, improving the quality of your mind and body.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How to improve desk posture? or How to have better desk posture?
When we look at desk posture, often times most of the thoughts on it are what cause the problems. We often use the cue “sit up straight” that was probably told by our parents from a young age. The problem with this thought is that when we sit up straight we usually move from our low back. 9/10 times, your low back is actually in the best position, so when you now “sit up straight” and you feel that tension in the low back you’re actually stressing it out. Instead, what typically is the problem is that our shoulders are rounded forward to type and slouch and this is what actually makes us look like we have “bad” posture. The simple fix is to set up your office ergonomically and work on thoracic mobility exercises and loosening up the tight chest muscles that have been engaged for however long you’ve been sitting!
What is the best desk posture corrector or aid?
Would it be terrible to tell you there is none? Those back braces and posture controls are only good temporarily at best. What happens if we constantly wear these posture aids is that the muscles that are supposed to do the job have now gone on vacation. They start atrophying and weakening due to lack of use. The phrase “you use it or you lose it” really does come true when it comes to muscle activity. So if you are using a back brace or aid then use it sparingly, and loosely so that it serves as a reminder rather than a crutch!
If you ever have any questions or concerns around your home office and the ergonomics involved, or if you need some help getting yourself pain-free to work optimally from home then give us a call at 6046744027 to book an appointment, book online at www.baselinewellness.ca or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you on your journey towards your optimal health!
Special Thanks to Chiropractic Success Academy for the information.