“Hello, it’s the couch calling. Why don’t you bring that laptop over here and get comfy while you work?”
If you’re hearing that call, don’t answer. Sitting on the sofa — or worse, the bed — for long periods of time is a big no-no if you want to stay productive and pain-free while working from home, according to Chuck Spencer, Corporate Safety manager at Unum.
Spencer said an optimal work set up has 3 key pieces that need to fit together like a puzzle:
- The right size chair, adjusted to the right seated height
- A work surface that allows your arms to rest comfortably in a horizontal position
- Your monitor placed an arm distance away and set at a height that allows you to keep your head level
“All three need to be adjusted correctly so you can maintain a neutral posture,” Spencer said. “You want your neck, shoulders and hips to be aligned, with your feet flat on the floor.”
Even if you were fortunate enough to have an adjustable chair and sit-stand desk at the office, you probably don’t have them at home. So try these work-arounds: If your chair seat is too high for your feet to rest flat, try putting a box under your feet. Change things up by creating a standing work surface using a bar-height kitchen counter, sturdy ironing board or bookshelf.
The right position for your monitor is equally important. Hunching over (aka turtling) or tilting your head down all day could be a quick ticket to neck and shoulder pain. If the monitor is too low, put something sturdy underneath to raise it to eye level. If your monitor is your laptop screen, that might require plugging in an external keyboard so the screen and your shoulders are correctly positioned.
Be sure you have good lighting, too. If there’s glare from outside, use window shades. Sometimes shifting your monitor just a bit will take care of the unwanted light.
Finally, one of the best work tips is to, well, stop working — at least for a few minutes.
“Humans aren’t designed to sit or stand for long periods of time,” Spencer said. “Every 45 minutes to an hour, get up and move around or stretch a little, and look away from the monitor. Those frequent breaks wake us up and make us feel better. We want to be dynamic — not static — while working.”