By Kim Peterson, Fraser Senior Physical Therapist • October 29, 2020
Many people suddenly find themselves working from home, either full or part-time. While some had a home office already, that isn’t a reality for many. That, combined with a partner who may also be working from home and kids doing distance learning, can mean a full house.
Here are a few ideas from Fraser Senior Physical Therapist Kim Peterson to help create a work-from-home-space that is good for your body and doesn’t necessarily involve a separate room and a desk.
Sit in a 90/90 position
The way you sit can have a big impact on how your body feels at the end of the day. According to Peterson, you want to position your chair so you sit in a 90/90 position. That means your hips are at 90 degrees, and your knees are at 90 degrees. If you have a chair that goes up and down, like most office chairs, you can adjust it until you reach that 90/90 position.
Consider your chair carefully
While you may not have an adjustable height chair, a chair with a back and armrests is desirable. A chair with a back lets you lean back and take a break. Peterson says to avoid sitting on backless bar stools because it can be really fatiguing for your back muscles. Armrests give your elbows support while you’re typing or using a keyboard. You also want a chair where your feet can rest comfortably on the ground. If your chair is too tall, grab a stool or stack up some books to prop up your feet.
Desk height is important
The height of your desk is also important, so your body receives the proper support. You want your computer screen at eye level. This prevents possible neck strain from looking up or down all day.
“When I started working from home, I stacked my laptop on some old textbooks, so I wasn’t looking down all day,” says Peterson.
Ideally, you also want your elbows bent at 90 degrees when you’re using your mouse or keyboard. The base of your wrist should rest on something, so it isn’t floating at the edge of your workspace with no support.
But you don’t have to use a desk
Not everyone has a desk at home. You can work at a dining table, a coffee table or even use a TV tray. But you may want to avoid sitting at the kitchen counter. A counter is much higher, so your feet likely won’t touch the ground when you’re sitting. So your feet won’t be supported.
If you’re working at a coffee table, sit with your back against a couch or wall. You can also add a pillow or a rolled towel against your lower back to provide support.
It also helps if every 20 minutes, you can stand and move around for 20 seconds. Your back gets a break, and you can stretch out.
“Even if you don’t have an office, you can still create a comfortable space where you enjoy getting your work done,” says Peterson.
Set your work area just so
When you set things up at your work area, Peterson advises splitting your accessories evenly on either side of your computer. You don’t want to be constantly reaching in one direction or another because that will put a strain on your muscles. Put your most used items, like maybe a phone, on your dominant side, so you aren’t always reaching across to answer your phone.
Give your eyes a break with the 20/20/20 rule
The 20/20/20 rule helps reduce eye strain from looking at a computer screen. According to Peterson, every 20 minutes, try to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Best of all, you can do this even if you’re stuck in a long Zoom meeting. Eye strain can make you feel more tired, so avoiding it can help you feel less drained at the end of your day.