Has working from home had a negative effect on your body?
So, as we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully emerging from Lockdown 3 in England, have you thought how Lockdown and working from home might have affected you either mind, body, or both?
Home working was forced onto a lot of worker over the past 12 months during the pandemic, however not everyone is equipped to work from home, as we do not all have a dedicated space/room where we can set up a home working environment, an area in the house away from distractions of other family members or pet. As well as having to adapt furniture we have at home to use as a desk, such as dining room table, kitchen work bench or worst still the sofa or bed.
Even if we are lucky enough to have a dedicated area/room in the house that has been equipped with a computer desk and chair, if does not mean that you have the correct set up to be working for 8 hours (or more) a day. You and your workspace in the office will have had a Display Screen Equipment Assessment, did you have one at home? These assessments look at how the desk space is arranged, making sure the screen height and lighting are correct, your seat and other furniture are positioned to give you good posture when working. By not having a correct workstation can cause you to have postural issues in the body.
Are you aware what your posture is like while you are working from home (or in the office), do you even think about it or so you just wait till you start to feel an ache or pain in the body? In an ideal world we should all be sitting like the image with the green tick, but you will find a lot of workers are more like the image with the red cross. The bad posture image shows how out of aliment the body is. If you have your head tipped forward you are placing the neck muscles under extra tension as well as placing dozens of extra pounds of pressure on the cervical spine which can increase the risk of spinal degeneration. It can also cause your shoulders to become rounded and hunched which can also be linked to headaches or migraine. As well as back issues, if you have bad posture when working at a computer you could also suffer with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome which affects the Carpal Tunnel in your wrists and is pinched if your wrists are not in a correct position for typing.
There are many other conditions that can affect the body physically from a bad posture. But have you had a thought of how working from home can also affect your body and mind?
There have been many different studies on working from home pre pandemic and some of the results are very interesting which you might not have thought about, such as:
54% find more distractions when working from home than in the office
40% find it harder to focus when working from home that in the office
Distractions seem to be the main issue with the working from home during the pandemic, as not only have you had to contend with your own work, there are the other people in your household as well who could wanting/needing your time as they see you as being at home and not working so its ok to disturb you, or your partner could also be working from home and you are fighting for space to be able to work, or childcare/home schooling an added pressure/distraction onto your already busy day. I am lucky in that I don’t have the children element in my life, but I do have my dog who wants to either play or go for walks a lot more than she used to, but also a bonus in that she like to cuddle up to me when I am working on the computer.
Some people might also notice some of the disadvantages to working from home other than the distractions above. Another study has seen that 66% are likely to be working longer hours or at the weekends, or 49% found it hard to keep the boundaries between work and home life so end up working more as if they were based in the office they could switch off from work when they left the office, but with your work space now in the house it’s hard to switch off when you know there is work there to do and you are unable to go out and socialise with friends and family due to lockdown restrictions.
Another thing to consider not going into the office each day, is your activity levels have they stayed the same, increased or decreased? Many people would not consider the commute to work, where that be walking to the bus/metro station, walking from where you parked the car to the office, even walking around the office, popping out at lunch time to grab something to eat from the shop around the corner, would really count too much in your daily activity levels but you would be Wong to not consider it. A lot of people’s activity levels will have decreased during the lockdown being stuck in the house, the furthest you will have walked is to the kettle for a cuppa or a search of the fridge or cupboards for a snack, we have even utilised the online food shopping options saving us going out the supermarket. All these little bits of activity around your “normal” working day do add up and now you are more sedate stuck in the house, you could be sitting a lot more of the time whether it be while on the computer or on the sofa watching the TV, this and the reduction in activity can have a knock on affect to your lower back in particular, as when you are sitting you are placing more pressure on the lumber back area and there has been more people suffering with the symptoms of Sciatica and stiff lower back muscles. You can be adding around 200 pounds of extra pressure through your lumber spin by sitting, whereas there is only around 80 pounds of weight through the lumber spine when you are standing upright.
Poor posture and lack of activity can cause a host of conditions in the human body, such as Chronic back and neck pain, Migraines, Muscles strains, Disc degeneration, as well as Neural issues, Stress, or even Sleep disorders and many more
Here are some hints and tips of how you can try to help your body while working from home.
- Ideally if you can sit at a table and use this as your workspace such as an office desk, kitchen, or Dining room table
- Use a chair or stool where you can and be comfortable but not slouching
- If you are finding you are still having lower back ache while you are sitting on the kitchen/dining room style chair, support your lower back with either a cushion or a rolled-up towel in the small of your back
- Another way to help with lower back pain is to use a foot stool so that your legs are slightly raised, and the pressure is taken away from the lower back. If you don’t have an actual foot stool you can improvised with a pile of books or a couple of reams of paper.
- If you are using a laptop try to position it with the screen at eye level (a pile of books works as a good stand), however this will only be helpful if you have a separate keyboard and mouse.
- Try not to sit in the one position for long periods of time, try to take breaks every hour of 5 – 10 minutes in length and get up from the computer, walk around the room, stretch your back and arms/legs, or even if possible, pop outside for some fresh air to help clear the mind and you will find that when you return to the computer you are more focused and productive.
These are just some ways to help you, hopefully it’s not long now till we are able to get out and about more or even have the chance to book in for a massage to help sort out your back. Make sure you can have some you time and don’t feel guilty about it even if you have a family running around you.
Think of yourself like a mobile phone you need to plug into a power supply so you can recharge and then ready to take on the next task, I would not recommend plugging yourself into a power supply (thats a bit dangerous) but by taking some time out for you whether it be a walk around the block, relaxing in a bath, reading a book or even doing some colouring in (there are lots of colouring in books aim at adults not just children), you will be able to tackle the next task that is thrown at you.