Working From Home (again)? - Do it better the second time round!

Post by
Brian Tran

Following the latest restrictions, many of our patients have returned to working from home and for those who were clever enough to invest in a good workstation setup with ergonomic furniture and equipment, it is business as usual. However for those who put together makeshift setups and made do with what they had, this has meant a return to the scene of the crime of sore necks, backs, shoulders, and feeling plain uncomfortable whilst working.

The Dream Home Office Setup

Ideally home office setups should be clean, inviting, and make you want to be there and work. Some of the best home offices have:

  • Clean, open areas which are free of clutter, plenty of natural light, and lots of plants to brighten up the space.
  • Large uncluttered desks with sit to stand options.
  • Ergonomic chairs to fully support your body when sitting for prolonged periods.
  • Large monitors to reduce strain on your eyes when working on the computer.
  • Full sized keyboards with wrist rests and either an ergonomic or vertical mouse.

home office with herman miller chair
Some of the best home offices make you want to work there with sit to stand desks, high quality ergonomic chairs, and full sized monitors and keyboards.

The Nightmare Home Office

The worst home office setups that our Physiotherapists and Chiropractors have come across, are situations where people have been working in bed or on the floor using their laptops for prolonged periods. Sometimes this is just a case of not having enough space at home, or only having one home office and having to share it with another person. When this happens though, the pattern is that people come in with their sore necks, wrists, elbows, and backs and amusingly ask us why they are feeling this way!

Try avoid these work from home situations which are not ideal for your body.

The Realistic Home Office

Being practical is the most important thing when it comes to setting up your workstation at home and sometimes even small changes can have large impacts on the way our body feels. Sitting isn't all bad (just ask retail workers that need to stand all day!), but instead it's the sitting or standing for long periods without moving which can cause issues. The general rule is to get up and move around more often to break up the long periods of one position.

Your workstation can be even better if you:

  • Sit on a chair and table instead of the floor or bed.
  • Sit on an ergonomic chair (AFRIDI rated for > 8 hours of use), instead of the dining room chairs. Here's some options from Officeworks and Ergonomic Essentials.
  • Switch between a seated position and a standing position by upgrading to a sit to stand desk. Here's some options from Officeworks and Ergonomic Essentials.
  • Ensure the height of the chair, desk, and monitor is set in a way that is considered ergonomic.
  • Use the desktop computer (or laptop connected to an external monitor) if you're using the computer for more than a few hours at a time.
  • Use a full sized keyboard and mouse instead of the laptop keyboard and trackpad.
  • Consider using a vertical mouse.
  • Take regular breaks every hour or so to walk around.
  • Take some exercise breaks to stretch and strengthen your body (bands, weights, squats, lunges, pushups, etc). This has been shown to help manage neck and shoulder pain in office workers.

How to setup your workstation

Adjusting your home office setup is a bit of an art, and can take some trial and error to get it right. We take a systematic approach where we start from the feet and work our way up.

  1. Start by placing your feet flat on the ground, and adjusting the height of your seat to get your knees to 90 degrees. For those who are shorter, you may need a foot rest to get the feet flat.
  2. Shuffle your bottom backwards so your back touches the back of the back rest on the chair. If the back of your knees are too close to the edge of the chair, this might mean you have short thighs and you can try a lumbar support to bring you forward, or purchase a chair with a shorter seat depth.
  3. Adjust the height of your desk (for those with sit to stand desks) so that your elbows are at 90 degrees with desk and keyboard/mouse.
  4. Place your hands out and place the monitor so your fingertips can touch the screen. Adjust the height of the screen so that your eyes hit the top third of the screen. For those without height adjustable monitors, you can raise this with a few reams of paper or books.

Diagram of person sitting at desk with measurements on optimal computer and chair heights.
A good starting point to adjust your workstation to suit your body.

Need help setting up your home office?

Our Physiotherapists and Chiropractors at Westpoint Health in Blacktown are experienced in assessing workstation setups, and can help you put together a dream or practical setup that takes into account your body type and situation. This can include recommending different desks (including the better sit to stand desks out there), ergonomic chairs (that will suit your body type), good height adjustable monitors, and/or exercise programs you can do to manage and prevent any neck, shoulder, or back strains. To book an appointment and discuss your home office, call us on 02 8662 0496 or book online today!

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