What can we do to lessen the impact of working from home
Remote working or working from home (WFH) has been on the rise for the past last few years.
And since lockdown there’s been a huge spike in the number of people swapping their perfectly set up office desks to makeshift work spaces desks in their living rooms, kitchens or even bedrooms.
According to the latest statistics released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics in April, 49.2% of adults in employment were working from home as a direct result of the social distancing measures introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Whilst restrictions around social distancing might be easing, there’s still a huge number of people who either work remotely permanently or for the majority of the working week.
But what physical implications and emotional does WFH create?
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
Whether it’s your wrists, hands, forearms, elbows, neck or shoulders – RSI has a lot to answer for. RSI is a general term use to describe muscle, nerve and tendon pain caused by repetitive movement and overuse. It can strike anyone who performs a repetitive or high intensity action for long periods without rest. It’s also exacerbated by poor posture or activities involving working in an awkward position. Like typing on a computer or using your smartphone excessively.
Symptoms of RSI include burning, aching, or shooting pain. But you might also experience stiffness, throbbing, tingling or numbness, cramp or chronically cold hands, particularly in your fingertips.
Headaches and migraines
Bad posture, increased screen time and changes in our daily routine can all trigger tension headaches. The main feature of a migraine is a headache. But other symptoms include disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sound and smells, feeling sick and vomiting. They can last anywhere between four to 72 hours.
Neck pain associated with badly positioned screens and looking down – attractively double-chinned – at mobile phones is increasingly common in this tech focussed world, and even more of an issue with so many of us now working from home.
According to The Institute of Osteopathy, tight neck and upper back muscles, stiff joints, and trapped nerves are common effects of spending too long being hunched over screens, and if left untreated, can cause splintering pains through the shoulders and hands.
One of my patients told me recently that she’s always referred to her husband as her nearest and dearest. But now she just calls him her nearest! And I think that many of us can probably empathise with that feeling!
Lockdown and the ongoing working from home has put many of us in much closer proximity with family than we’re used to. And that requires emotional adjustment. Plus, there can be employment and financial worries to take into account. And stress and anxiety can bring a host of physical symptoms.
What can we do to lessen the impact of working from home?
There are a variety of ways that you can lessen the impact of working from home on your physical and emotional wellbeing.
• Set the computer screen so that’s it at eye level
• Keep your feet flat on the floor and try not to cross your legs.
• Consider a wrist rest to keep your wrists straight and at the same level as your keyboard.
• Use a headset if you use the phone a lot, rather than clamping the phone between your ear and shoulder.
• Do some simple neck exercise through the day
• Drink plenty of water through the day – the discs between the vertebrae in the spine consist mainly of water so keeping hydrated will ensure they stay healthy.
• Try to take regular breaks – these are good for body and mind. Small and frequent rests are preferable to one long one
Learn about our Home Office Ergonomics service, a service designed to improve your home working arrangements