HELENA — More people are working from home than ever , but all the comforts of home don’t always make for a comfortable working environment.
Companies will often invest hundreds of dollars per employee to create an ergonomic work space that improves working conditions. A wooden kitchen chair doesn’t offer the same lumbar support office chairs do.
Dr. Nick Smith, DC with Elevation Spine & Wellness warns if people are not careful, bad working posture can have health consequences like neck and back pain.
“It’s going to creep up on you and by the time you feel it you’ve already done some damage to your posture and to your neck muscles,” explained Smith. “The old cliche, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, could not be more true with occupational injury.”
The first thing people want to do is designated an area in their home as their work space. Rooms with natural light that is not glaring are ideal, as poorly lit areas can contribute to eye strain and headaches.
Feet should be flat on the floor, and hips, knees and elbows should be at 90 degrees. Pillows can be used for seat and lumbar support, and a rolled up towel works for wrist resting.
The computer monitor or the laptop should have top of the screen level or just below the eye line.
“The biggest thing I do when I go to government offices is I say, ‘Hey let’s go raid the supply closet,’ and I’ll pull out reams of paper, books, boxes or foam blocks,” said Smith. “Anything that you can find, it doesn’t really matter, but you’ve got to get these things up. I recommend with laptops that people get a separate keyboard to plug in so that the screen can be raised, or plug in the laptop to a raised monitor.”
People should also be taking regular breaks, as sitting for long periods of time can negatively impact your health.
“We recommend people take time every 30 to 40 minutes to stand up, stretch and walk around a little bit,” said Occupational Therapy specialist Christel Harrison, with St. Peter’s Health. “Keep a normal routine which does mean take your 15 minute break in the morning. Do take your lunch hour away from your work area so that you’re moving around and not in one static position for any long period of time.”
Extended time in the home can lead to extra weight gain.
Food should be left in the kitchen to prevent over snacking, and people need to make sure they’re staying properly hydrated.
It’s recommended that people get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week.
Jumping rope, lunges, planking, jumping jacks and dancing can all be done at home.
There have also been a rise of YouTube and social media workouts being posted due to the COVID-19 stay at home order.
However, spending all day inside can also lead to vitamin D deficiency which has been linked to depression and loss of bone density.
“One of the best exercises people can do right now is walking,” said Harrison. “It’s low impact, you don’t need any equipment and we do encourage you to try walking outside. Either in your garden, backyard, around your house, up and down some stairs if you have them to help get that exercise, fresh air and sunshine.”
People who are recreating outside are asked to follow social distancing guidelines. Make sure to stay at least 6 feet apart and don’t gather in groups larger than 10 people.
Both Elevation Spine and Wellness and St. Peter’s Health Occupational therapy are still seeing patients at this time, and can assist patients over the phone to see if an in person visit is needed.