Many of us are still reaping the benefits of working from home including more time with family, eating more healthily and saving some money on commuting, however, not everyone has a home office set up inclusive of a decent work station. As many companies rebudget with remote work set firmly in place for the future, it’s time to really think about whether you are “working from home” correctly or if you are permanently altering your posture with long term health implications.
How to work from home
Working from home can induce a more stressful existence with increased workload, increased isolation from colleagues and no break between our home and work lives. That’s why it’s never been more important to get it right and put wellness at the heart of your working from home routine.
“Working from home has to be well planned.
Tell yourself you are not working from home, you are working from a home office. Try to isolate your home office as much as you can away from all the domestic action. The kitchen has got to be the worst place to work, [there are] too many distractions and food! The bedroom or conservatory might work well, but I do realise we do not all have the luxury of an isolated room or area. Do your best.” Says Jon Morton-Bell, BSc, DO, MSc, FCMI - Principal Clinical Osteopath & Medical Acupuncturist.
Continuing on the importance of how best to set your body up for the day before starting work. Jon takes us through some sure fire daily rituals to ward off aches and pains and keep your body/joints feeling fluid:
Tips for working from home
- Get out of bed! Consider some gentle stretches and exercises.
- Take your breakfast – keep it healthy and light – enjoy [it].
- Now it’s ablutions, shower/bath etc. – shaving – and so on, you will feel good and prepared for the day. Please do not just go to your work station in PJ’s or a dressing gown – this is not good news.
- Basically, you have to prepare to go to work as normal, fresh and ready to go.
- Take a coffee/tea or water! Take a break in both the am and pm - 10/15 minutes only, and 20/30 minutes very light lunch – no bread, it sends most of us to sleep.
- End your working day if you can by 6pm at the latest.
- Go for a short walk or jog – most importantly get out for 30-60 minutes.
- [Take] dinner not too late, [read or watch] TV and then eight hours sleep, no iPhones or iPads or social media etc. – it is a killer.
When it comes to setting up a work station that won’t have you slumped over a coffee table, Jon points out that most dining tables are at a reasonable height, laying importance on having “a fully adjustable ‘operators chair’.” Explaining further, Jon says, “The only way to truly protect your spine and spinal muscles is to use a chair that is fit for purpose. They do not have to be expensive. Your employer should help to provide one, or get out there and borrow one – I think every household needs one anyway.”
The experienced osteopath states that you should get up from your desk or table every 30-60 minutes and stretch - a good habit most of us could do with developing for home or office working! Jon also advises that we should aim to not eat lunch or have coffee breaks at our work stations, nor should we take long breaks away from our work stations. Instead we should strike the ideal balance so as to maintain discipline within our work/domestic balance. The most important thing to avoid when working from home is the sofa “You definitely cannot work ergonomically or efficiently from a sofa, do not do it at any cost!” Says Jon.
Top tips for monitoring posture when working from home.
Jon Morton-Bell shares some great tips for monitoring posture when working from home:
- You can consider exercise, treatment or professional advice to prevent more serious neuromuscular conditions.
- Do not let a discomfort become a serious disfunction.
- I have been trained to consider how I work with my patients to especially prevent back pain and other repetitive strains. It is all about good posture – look it up – we should all read about it.
- I also believe in sensible diet supplementation – everybody should take Vitamin D3 each day, other supplements may be advisable depending on age and general health issues. We should all also look up D3.
- We should all keep a check on our weight, especially [during] this pandemic, and being restricted in general activities.
- Running or speed walking 3-4 times a week is good for you.
- If you cannot swim – a speed walk, a walk, or a light jog is recommended, providing you are fit and healthy to do so.
- Stress and tension can lead to considerable neuromuscular discomfort and pain. It is often also responsible for headaches and depression.
Where some of us have struggled to maintain a routine and some of us might have snacked a touch more, taking on board even just a handful of these simple tips could lead to feeling healthier all round, especially when it comes to protecting our spines. The ancient practice of Qigong is also hailed by many health professionals as an excellent way to maintain great posture. Jon Morton-Bell emphasises the importance of sleep and relaxation being an integral part to our overall wellbeing, explaining how a shower before bed can work wonders as a “natural sleeping tablet” and to strive to get eight hours sleep when possible.
Protecting spine health is essential in today’s working environments, whether based at home or in an office, with the ACA stating that ‘Worldwide, back pain is the single leading cause of disability, preventing many people from engaging in work as well as other everyday activities.’ Alongside this harrowing finding is the fact that 80% of us will experience back problems at some point in our lifetime.
So whether you continue working from home or go back to work we can all be mindful of our posture to help avoid back problems. Make some simple today and achievable changes to feel a real difference.
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