As I’m writing this, in late-March/early-April 2020, most people are working from home due to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, and we are all self-isolating with minimal interaction outside the home. Here are a few tips and ideas about feeling comfortable when working from home (and these don’t necessarily have to be because of a global pandemic).
Computer set up
It’s oh so easy to think that the laptop is wonderful because it can be used anywhere; it can also be a pain because it can be used anywhere. If you’re working from home you’re likely to be using it a lot more and here are some suggestions on getting it set up. Think about how you have your computer set up at work, and try to bring those principles to the home:
- Table height. This might be trickier to do as the available space is possibly a bit limited and all you have is the kitchen table. You want to have your upper arms hanging from your shoulders (not elbows winging out to the sides) and the elbows bent to just over 90 degrees. That way you’re slightly less likely to bring your shoulders up to your ears, rounding your shoulders and increasing tension across the upper back an shoulders.
- A decent chair. Have a proper chair to sit in, you’re going to be at the computer for a while so being comfortable is key. You also want one that helps to support you in an upright position. Sit on a cushion if you need to to get the right height for the table, but also put something under your feet if they’re hanging in mid air. You might also want another cushion or pillow to support your low back.
- Separate keyboard and mouse. Yes, a laptop has these built in, but I always find that they scrunch me up when I’m using them for any length of time. Using separate keyboard and mouse (definitely the mouse) gives you more flexibility with your set up, especially with the next point.
- Screen position. Like with a desktop you really want the top of the screen to be about 2cm below your eye level when you sit up tall. If the screen is too low then you’ll either drop your head to get to see it or you’ll tilt your head downwards, which will ultimately put significant strain across your upper back and shoulders. You also want to not have too much light reflecting on it, or a bright window directly behind it as both of these can make it hard on your eyes.
- Designate a work space. This might be difficult to achieve, but having a space set aside to be your “office” means you can walk away at the end of your work day or when you take a break. Anyone you live with will know that when you’re at your computer you are working. I think it is good for the mind to be able to shut the computer away at the end of the day and move out of work mode.
I always suggest to my clients that they really need to move away from their desk at least once an hour, if not every 30 minutes. Even if it is just to quickly stretch, get a glass of water, go to the toilet. It gives you a chance to get the blood pumping, and stretch the neck, shoulders, and legs.
There are some suggested exercises towards the end of this post.
Habits and routines
If you normally travel to work then there will be routines and habits (some of which are better for us) that we have. Where possible it is good to set and continue some routines that help put us into the work frame of mind. This might include:
- Get up at the same time during the week, similar to your normal work day.
- Showering, shaving
- Getting dressed, even though joggers and leggings are so comfortable.
- A morning walk or run or yoga.
- A tea or coffee break midmorning.
- Not looking at work emails until it is time for you to actually work.
- Finish your day at the same time each day, and roughly when you normally would leave the office.
Make sure you actually take your breaks, which is also a good thing to do when working in an office. If you can, have your lunch away from your workspace, even if it is just moving and sitting on the other side of the kitchen table. If possible go for a walk, do some stretches (see below for ideas) or stand looking out of the window.
Speaking of looking out of your window, have you heard of the 20:20:20 rule? This is a quick exercise that is good for your, and I did confirm this with an Optometrist. The rule is:
Every 20 minutes, you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. For the metric generation, 20 feet is just over 6 metres in length, so looking out of the window at something on the horizon works well.
We still need to keep up with our water in-take. It doesn’t need to be excessive, but you still need to keep the water levels as described in my blog on water. In essence you want to be going to the toilet approximately every two hours, which is a chance to move, and your urine should have a slight colour. Also don’t just down lots of water in one go or your body will just divert that straight out to the bladder.
Exercises and Movements
These shouldn’t necessarily be that vigorous, but can be helpful to try to incorporate into your day. Areas that you want to include, and probably do anyway are:
Upper back: If you have the space the chest opener (lying on a rolled up towel) is great.
It might be helpful to move into and out of the stretch a little more than described so they are continuous movements, but as always they should not cause or make worse any unpleasant discomfort. If they do then please stop the exercise.
So these are a number of suggestions about how to set up your computer when working from home. Let me know if you have any other suggestions or indeed if you find this helpful.
Thanks for reading this, my lovely Interonauts.