Working from home has become the new normal, as we comply with lockdown and social distancing measures to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. For some, this is the first and only time we have worked from home, and many of us may be required to continue to work from home to support social distancing – once lockdown measures are lifted.
Some of us are lucky enough to have dedicated offices and desks at home, but many have to make do with the workspaces they can create at dining tables, kitchen counters, and even sofas. If you’ve started to notice aches and pains, it may be as a result of not working in the right position or not adhering to best practice.
Long periods of sitting with poor posture can cause aches and pains, as well as musculoskeletal disorders. Sitting for can also increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and a decline in cognitive function.
There are easy stretches that can help to ease the aches and pains some of us are feeling as a result of working from home. Taking the time to stretch and exercise throughout the working day will not only help to ease or prevent aches but can also be a great way of making sure that you take regular breaks and introduce exercise into your daily routine.
Working at a computer screen and sitting incorrectly can lead to neck pains and headaches.
Staring at a computer screen for long periods can lead us to blink less, which can cause dry eyes and headaches. It is recommended you look away from, and then blink rapidly for a few seconds. This helps to relax the muscles in our eyes and refreshes eye moisture levels.
As well as taking regular screen breaks, it is also recommended you stretch your neck regularly throughout the day, to soothe and prevent neck pains. Start by tilting your head forward, as far as you can comfortably. Then slowly, and carefully, roll your head backwards and look to the ceiling. Do this 3 – 5 times, throughout the day to stretch the muscles in your neck.
Many of us feel pain after periods of slouching while working, in the office, or when working from home. Slouching and sitting with poor posture can lead to tension in our shoulders, pain in our back, poor circulation, and poor digestion.
To prevent shoulder and back pain, we should make efforts to ensure we do not slouch and try to sit correctly:
- Sit up straight – avoid hunching or slouching
- Sit with feet flat on the floor
- Avoid crossing legs
- Keep your knees in line with hips
- Sit so ears are over shoulders
- Ensure computer screens are at eye level
To relieve slouching related shoulder tension, take regular breaks and complete shoulder stretches. Place one hand under your elbow, lift your elbow and stretch it across your chest. Do not rotate your body while you stretch and try to hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Release slowly, and repeat on your other side.
Those who spend long periods of the day typing may experience wrist pain. Over time, repetitive actions such as typing can strain muscles, tendons, and nerves in the arms, wrist, fingers, and hands.
To ease wrist pain, ensure keyboards are placed correctly at workstations and the right typing position is used. Keyboards should be placed slightly below the elbow so the wrists can remain straight whilst typing. When typing the wrist should not rest on hard surfaces or edges, and elbows should be held close to the body.
It is also important to take regular breaks and stretch the wrists. To stretch the wrists, raise wrists and arms, and gently stretch wrists up and down, curling fingers, to loosen and relax muscles.
Child’s pose and stretching the spine
Sitting for long periods of the day can lead to back tension, back pain, and tension in the glutes and hamstrings. Yoga poses can help to relieve tension and can build strength which can help to improve posture.
Child’s pose is an easy yoga pose that can help to stretch the spine and thigh muscles. It is relatively simple to do and taking time to complete the pose can be a great way to wind down after a day of working from home.
To do a child’s pose – position yourself on all fours, which hands and knees on the floor. Then gently sink your hips to your feet whilst stretching your arms so that your hands are in front of you. Gently place your forehead on the floor and breathe deeply. Hold the pose for 5 minutes whilst taking deep breaths.
There is increasing evidence that sitting for long periods and leading a sedentary lifestyle can be a risk to health. Research suggests that 70,000 deaths a year in the UK can be associated with sedentary lifestyles and the associated health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
Those who work from home may be less active than when previously commuting to offices. Without travel, many of us may be missing out on activities such as walking or cycling to work, which may have helped us in achieving the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. Furthermore, working from home means that you don’t need to walk so much, as you would do working in a building, for example, to the kitchen or even the photocopier.
Many free online resources can be used to increase fitness levels for those working from home and in lockdown. YouTube is a great resource for finding exercise videos– and many routines are specifically designed for those who are beginners, have no equipment, or are looking for a quick workout before starting work.
Here at Cardinus we have experience working with organisations during times of change and crisis. We are experts when it comes to and risk assessing and have a portfolio of online resources and training specifically for home workers.
Visit our COVID-19 resource hub to find home working and risk assessment resources.