Working from home has become more common than ever. If you’re spending up to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in your home office, an ergonomic workspace is vital.
The first rule of good ergonomics and keeping your posture healthy while working from home: get moving! Multiple studies have shown that exercise can help to improve symptoms of musculoskeletal pain and improve posture. Performing gentle spinal mobility exercises just three times a week can have a significant positive effect on how you feel.
In fact, a study from BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders concluded that a combination of frequent stabilising exercises (which focus on postural muscles) and regular manual therapy (‘hands on’ treatment from a chiropractor or physical therapist) was more effective at reducing neck pain and improving posture than just performing stabilising exercises or regular at home exercise alone.
That means checking in with your chiropractor for some expert advice and incorporating more movement into your day are both key. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to shift position every 30-45 minutes, breaking up your day by going on a short walk, switching from sitting to standing or taking a break to stretch.
However, that’s easier said than done during the working day. Which is where an ergonomic desk set up while working from home becomes so important.
Setting up your work from home space
So, what does a good at home workspace look like? Here are some easy rules to follow to help improve your posture while you work.
Review your desk position
The height of your desk should allow you to sit comfortably. Make sure there’s enough space for your knees and feet, and that the surface of the desk allows you to type with your wrists straight, hands in line with elbows or just below.
Bonus tip: Invest in a standing desk or desk height extender. A standing desk means you can alternate between standing and sitting throughout the day, allowing you to stretch and use your postural muscles.
Choose a comfortable chair
When looking for a desk chair, choose a model that supports your spinal shape. Make sure it also has adjustable height options so you can ensure your thighs are parallel to the floor (knees in line with hips) and your feet rest flat on the floor.
Bonus tip: Swap your desk chair for an exercise ball! While balancing on a ball, your postural muscles, which are linked to balance or proprioception, are being used and strengthened. Make sure that when sitting on the ball, it meets the chair height and positioning requirements outlined above.
Position your monitor appropriately
Your monitor should sit directly in front of you, with your keyboard directly in front of it. It should be at arms-length from your body, and low enough that the top of the screen is in your direct eye line or just below.
Place office equipment in easy reach
Your phone, mouse, notepads, printer, stapler or any other tools you use regularly should sit easily within arm’s reach. Reaching uncomfortably for one of these items puts your body under postural stress, so if you can’t reach it easily, stand up to get it.
Last but certainly not least, if you’re regularly working from home, book a consult with a chiropractor for a professional posture assessment and expert advice on keeping yourself in top condition.
Kim D, Cho M, Park Y, Yang Y., Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain. J Phys Ther Sci., 2015
Fathollahnejad K, Letafatkar A, Hadadnezhad M., The effect of manual therapy and stabilizing exercises on forward head and rounded shoulder postures: a six-week intervention with a one-month follow-up study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord., 2019
Office ergonomics: Your how-to guide, www.mayoclinic.org, 2019
How to use a standing desk correctly - Full tutorial, 2020, ergonofis.com