COVID-19 has revolutionised the workplace, and we are seeing increasing numbers of employees working from home. Working from home offers flexibility, convenience, reduced travel time and greater work-life balance. However, working from home has meant, for some, a blurring of the line between work and leisure, reduced productivity and extended work hours and less opportunity for incidental movement and exercise.
In the transition to working from home, many people have not been adequately set up to accommodate a functional work life at home, and the behavioural change that has come with this new movement has presented an opportunity for activity (or lack thereof) related pain and dysfunction. The lockdowns have seen many people suffering from neck pain while working from home or from working from home back pain and other similar maladies.
Here are some simple pain management at home strategies to help you achieve comfort in working from home, reduce associated pain and dysfunction and boost your physical activity levels.
There is no “optimal” setup, but there are some strategies you can implement
Sometimes, we can get hung up on the idea of having the most work from home ergonomics set up to avoid work-related pain and dysfunction. The human body is robust and capable of functioning in a multitude of environments. However, some environments demand more from our bodies, and when this demand outweighs our functional capacity and tolerance, pain can arise. Setting up your ergonomic environment is not the be-all and end-all for preventing or overcoming work-related pain (you might STILL get uncomfortable with the “BEST” setup), but it is important. When setting up your environment, variety is key!
The human body is made to move, so our work environment should accommodate this. An adjustable chair, a computer stand or desk that allows you to sit or stand, a monitor that can be positioned in various ways, and a workspace that does not confine you to a finite setup are all integral.
Many people opt for the best chairs for back pain at home, while others make sure they stand up every 25 minutes to walk, stretch, or do other activities for at least 5 minutes. If you are experiencing pain related to sustained exposure to sitting at your desk, changing it up can give your body some respite!
Incentive to move
Sometimes we can get so caught up in our work that we forget exercising while working from home. There are a few ways we can give ourselves no choice but to move so that, regardless of how busy we are, we remember to give our body the movement it yearns for. For example, instead of bringing a big water bottle to your desk, bring a cup so that you must regularly go to the kitchen to fill up your cup and quench your thirst.
Set a regular alarm in another room that requires you to get up from your desk to switch it off. Keep snacks in the kitchen instead of your desk’s top drawer. Enlist social support from colleagues, family members or pets that hold you accountable for lunchtime walks, achieving a certain number of steps in the day or completion of daily physical activity.
Humans are creatures of habit! Establishing a routine can be a simple way of incorporating movement into your day without thinking! Going for a walk at lunchtime, completing a home exercise program, getting lunch from down the street on Mondays, preparing lunch at home during your break on Wednesdays, standing up at your desk for that weekly teleconference scheduled on a Thursday and getting away from your desk for lunch EVERY SINGLE DAY are ways that you can incorporate physical activity into your workday. Ensuring regular work hours is imperative. Know when to work, when to play and when it is time to rest and respect those boundaries!
If you are experiencing pain, a specific set of exercises to do while working from home may help alleviate your discomfort. Discussing your problem with a physiotherapist who can determine the cause of your issue and help to develop a tailored set of exercises is recommended!
Monopolise on your extra time
Working from home may mean less travel time to and from work, which means that time for leisure just increased! Take advantage of this time to look after your mental and physical well-being, considering that working from home mental health has been a huge challenge for many during the lockdowns.
Whether it be taking up a new hobby, spending more time playing with your children, pampering yourself or just getting to bed an hour earlier than usual, all these activities can help to create a work-life balance and set you up for success!
Sometimes working from home means LESS time for you. This can quite often be the case if you have children at home or you are no longer passing the gym on your way home, or there is more cleaning and household maintenance involved with being at home all the time. If this is the case, enlisting social support, prioritising alternatives to your usual physical activity routine and setting boundaries are important!
Remember, you must look after yourself if you are to look after others! Hopefully, these strategies are insightful and spark some ideas for how you might incorporate more movement into your workday and reduce pain and dysfunction associated with working from home. If you are experiencing pain and or dysfunction, consulting with a physiotherapist who can help develop a management plan is worth it!
Blog by Brittany Romas – Physiotherapist , PhysioChoice Hampton Victoria.
Link to her online bio: https://www.physiochoice.com.au/hampton
Brittany holds a Bachelor of Applied Science and Masters of Physiotherapy from La Trobe University, and is currently studying her Masters of Sports and Exercise Physiotherapy at La Trobe University.
She is an avid powerlifter and has a strong interest in strength conditioning, acute sport injuries, and occupational related conditions.
Brittany has spent time in South East Asia working with paediatric patients with a large range of neurological disorders; she has developed a keen interest in providing disability support in conjunction with the NDIS.
Brittany believes in a holistic approach to her client’s rehabilitation and treatments including Hydrotherapy, Dry Needling and Clinical Pilates.