Our Bowie physical therapists offer guidance on how to set up your home office properly to avoid pain and discomfort
May 26, 2020
For most Americans, work today is nothing like what it once was. Nearly every member of the workforce has been impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another, and for the many individuals who normally worked in an office, this has meant transitioning to working from home.
Switching to a home-based work environment may not have been all that challenging for those with a home office and those already accustomed to working remotely, but for a great many others, this process hasn’t been as smooth. Whether it’s the lack of an office or private space to work in, having children at home that further limit workable areas, or some other combination of factors, setting up a workstation equivalent to the normal office setup has likely been a tall task for lots of individuals.
This means that if you’ve been working from home, you may have needed to get creative with how and where to set up your workstation. While adapting is key—and completely necessary—in these situations, it can also mean extra strain on your body due to the makeshift arrangement that might be used. This can result in pain and discomfort in the neck, back, shoulders, and elsewhere in the body if improper positioning is sustained for too long.
Fortunately, if you understand a few basic ergonomic concepts, you can apply them to multiple work areas in your home and keep your risk for pain and injury low. Our Bowie physical therapists recommend the following for setting up shop in each of these home regions:
Desk and table
- You don’t need an expensive or adjustable chair when working at a desk or table, so long as it allows you to position your body properly while sitting
- Start by achieving a relatively comfortable seated position and adjust the rest of the workstation to fit you based on your position
- An ideal seated position means your feet are resting on the floor while your pelvis and lower back fit snugly against the back of the chair
- If your feet don’t reach the floor, use a footrest
- if your pelvis and back don’t reach the back of the chair comfortably, use a pillow or cushion
- Your arms should be bent at about a 90-degree angle when you place them on your keyboard, with your wrists in a neutral position
- Keep your shoulders relaxed, with elbows near your sides or on the armrests
Bed or couch
- Working on a bed or couch may be a necessary option if an ideal desk or table is unavailable, or to change up your environment every so often
- It’s common to hunch or slump while working in these conditions, which can lead to back and neck strain if sustained over time; this can easily be changed to make them more ergonomically sound
- Sit with your back to the wall or headboard with one pillow placed horizontally behind your lower back and one vertically along your spine
- Place another pillow under your thighs to reduce pressure on your back
- Use a lap tray or tray-like surface on top of a pillow for your computer, and keep your arms in the same position you would at a desk
- Use the same setup as you would in bed
- Keep your lower back supported by a pillow
- Instead of placing a pillow underneath your thighs, make sure your feet comfortably reach the floor or a footrest
- If you don’t have a standing desk, your countertop could be a great alternative
- Be sure to keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees
- If possible, place the top of your computer monitor at eye level
Adjusting to working from home—like many of the other adjustments we’ve all had to make during this pandemic—has not been easy, and it’s put a strain on many individuals. But one thing you can do is spare yourself the additional strain on your spine and rest of your body from working in a non-ideal position all day. Our Bowie physical therapists strongly recommend making these changes to your whatever your home working environment happens to be, and if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort, we are still here to help. CAM Physical Therapy and Wellness Services is still patients, both in the office and through telehealth appointments. Give us a call at 301-853-0093 to schedule your telehealth appointment or in-person visit at any of our four locations in Laurel, Hyattsville, Glenn Dale/Bowie, or Silver Spring, MD today. For more tips on setting up your home office, click here.