COVID-19 has revolutionized 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 behavioral change that has come with this new movement has presented opportunity for activity (or lack thereof) related pain and dysfunction. Here are some simple 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” set up, but there are some strategies you can implement
Sometimes we can get hung up on the idea of having the most ergonomic 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” set up), but it is important. When setting up your environment, variety is key! The human body is made to move and 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 set up are all integral. 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 to move. There are a few ways that 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. 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 as opposed to the top draw of your desk. Enlist social support from colleagues, family members or pets that hold you accountable for lunch time walks, achieving a certain number of steps in the day or completion of daily physical activity.
Humans are creatures of habit! Establishing routine can be a simple way of incorporating movement into your day without having to think! Going for a walk at lunch time, 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 a 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!
- Home exercises
If you are experiencing pain, it may be that a specific set of exercises may help to 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!
- Monopolize 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 wellbeing. 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 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, prioritizing alternatives to your usual physical activity routine and setting boundaries is 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.