Are you sitting comfortably?
The first thing to do is make sure you have a proper place to work at. A sofa won’t cut it - it’s tempting to plonk yourself down among the cushions, with your laptop on your lap (and the remote within reach), but it’s not doing your back any favours. In fact, sitting like this for even a week or two could be doing your body long-term damage. ‘You’re not giving your lumbar enough support and this can give you neck problems, putting a strain on your upper back and your arms, from your shoulders to your wrists,’ says Jo Blood, managing director of Posture People, an independent ergonomic furniture consultancy.
Instead, turn your kitchen table into your a home office - or, if you have the space, move a table into a spare room and start working from there. But kitchen tables are usually about 3cm higher than a standard desk and a kitchen chair, 3cm lower. ‘Which means that when working at a kitchen table, you are often sitting too low with your elbows too low, which puts additional pressure on the underside of your wrists,’ says Jo. ‘Another problem we find is that over time people collapse inwards to make it easier to see the screen, but that puts a lot of pressure on your lower back, neck and upper back which leads to pain there, and on your wrists.’
Posture People sells lots of nifty equipment and offers expert advice to help you transform your kitchen table and chair into an ergonomically good work space – but if you don’t want to spend much cash, then use books or a box to raise your screen so it is in-line with your eyebrows and also place it an arm’s length away from you with your fingers able to touch the screen. Once your laptop screen is raised, it’s best to use a separate keyboard and mouse to prevent overreaching.
Also, adapt your kitchen chair with a cushion beneath you to raise you up, and behind you, to help support your back. Ideally, you want to be sitting high enough so that your elbows are at the same height as your table. If your feet don’t touch the floor when sat at the right height, use a book as a temporary footrest. ‘And if you use your mobile, avoid ‘tech neck’, caused by dropping your head to look at the phone. Instead, lift your phone to your eyeline,’ says Jo.
Move it, move it!
It is also very important it to take regular breaks from working. 'Working in an office gives us lots of opportunities to get up and move about - going to the printer, getting a drink, going out to get lunch and so on,’ says Ash James, spokesperson for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. ‘It can be harder to get that incidental activity working from home, so consciously build it into your day.
‘Make sure you're not in the same position for any long period - sofas aren't great because they're built for comfort, which actively discourages us from getting up. Always remember to get up regularly and change your position.’
Let there be light
Bad light strains the eyes so you need to make sure your desk is brightly lit. Natural light makes you feel awake so if you can, place your laptop perpendicular to a window as this gives you lots of light without the glare.
If you can’t get enough natural light, then place a table lamp on the table so the light falls on your computer. Turn on the kitchen lights so you have overhead light too.
Sort out your stuff
At your usual office, you have everything you need around you, so make sure you have the same at home - pop your pens in a glass or mug and have a notebook beside you for making notes. If you have lots of documents, get a letter tray or box file. Add a small pot plant for a de-stressing shot of green. If you need to clear everything away at the end of the day, it’s worth investing in a box that you pop everything into and safely store them until the next day.
Conference call chic
If your job includes video links, keep it professional by making sure what people see looks neat and tidy - remember, your colleagues can see behind you so if you’re seated in front of the sink and you’ve not done the breakfast dishes, they’ll be in shot; not good!
Instead, sit in front of an artfully arranged bookcase, sideboard or even a wall. If the wall is blank and you want to inject a bit of fast style, then stick a print on the wall with Blu Tack.
Life: Coronavirus 2020