If you can work from home, work from home. Although you may be able to get your work done at a cramped desk or in poor light, none of these things is great for your body. When you hold yourself in awkward positions, you may get problems with your muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves.
Below are the most useful tips when you are working from on a computer:
- Create space for your legs. Choose a work surface that offers plenty of space for your knees, thighs, and feet. Try not to sit directly in front of drawers or cabinets.
- Protect your back. To help keep a healthy posture, an office chair with lumbar (low back) support is best. If you use a hard-backed chair, choose one that lets your knees stay level with your hips. Pad your chair with a seat cushion and place a rolled-up towel behind your lower back. If your chair has armrests, adjust them so that your shoulders stay relaxed.
- Support your feet. One trick to getting your posture right is to keep your feet flat on the floor. If the chair you use doesn’t allow that to happen, use a footrest. You can also place a small stack of sturdy books under your feet.
- Keep your computer screen at eye level. If your computer screen is too low and you have to tuck your chin into your chest to see it, this can lead to neck, shoulder, and back pain. If you can, place your screen on a surface that’s arm’s length away and eye level.
- Get your lighting right. Natural light will help you see your work better. To reduce glare, set up your workspace to the side of a window instead of having it in front of or behind you. Your computer screen should be brighter than the sun outside, so adjust your blinds or pull down your shades on sunny days.
- Take frequent breaks. Once you get your home office set up, don’t feel like you have to stay there all day. Your muscles can get tired and sore from supporting you when you sit, which may lead to other problems over time. Try to take a 1- to 2-minute break every 20 to 30 minutes that you’re at your desk. Stand and gently stretch.
- If you can, get a standing desk. Stay on your feet as you work on your laptop or computer and you may be less likely to have shoulder or back pain. If you don’t have a standing desk, place your laptop on a high counter, shelf, or an ironing board. It may take a while to get used to this way of working. To keep your legs and feet from getting sore, stand for no more than 30 minutes at first. A cushioned kitchen mat will also help.
- Keep your keyboard in reach. If you have to stretch to reach your keyboard, you’ll strain your arms. When typing or using a mouse, your wrists should be straight, your elbows close to your body, and your hands even with your elbows or slightly lower.
- Cushion your wrist. If your wrists or lower arms press against the edge of your work surface too much, you may start to feel pain or tingling. As the tissue to these areas gets squeezed, blood flow can slow. To stave off problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, use a wrist cushion. You can also pad hard edges of your desk or table with a folded washcloth.
- Make your phone hands free. If you often talk on the phone while you work at a computer, protect yourself from a stiff neck. Place your phone in speaker mode or use a headset, especially if you type or write at the same time.
- 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes that you look at your screen, take 20 seconds to stare at something else about 20 feet away. Changing your focus, even briefly, allows your eyes to rest.