How to keep physically and mentally healthy whilst working from home can be a challenge at any time, let alone being suddenly thrust into it in these difficult times. When you are used to sitting at a well set up working station with your colleagues around you, working alone from home, potentially with your kids around you, is a totally different prospect. So using some input from the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics, here are a few tips which may help.
You can listen to Kate chatting to Georgey Spanwick on BBC Radio York giving a few of these tips here.
Aim to stick to a regular routine. Get up at the same time on each working day, schedule a set working pattern, avoiding other activities creeping in such as cooking, DIY or gardening. Put your laptop away when you’re not working, try to have a clear end time and ensure you wind down at the end of the day – often people use their home commute for this so try not to miss out on it. Keep boundaries between your working day and family time.
If you are caring for children at home, you may like to think about altering your daily rotuine to your usual one to work around them – perhaps start a bit earlier in the day before the kids are up and active, or split your working day into 2 or 3 parts to be able to spend some time with the children – this will work in regular breaks to your day too.
Try to have a specific place in which to work, if you can, be it at a desk or a kitchen table. You may find you are fighting over space with the kids and a partner who may also be working from home, so try to decide where you can each have a space. But do not be tempted to “make do” with sitting on a sofa or even a bed! This will enevitably lead to postural aches and pains, difficulty concentrating and subsequent reduction in productivity.
Desk Set Up
It is unlikely that you will have the same ideal set up that you may have in your office. There are, however, simple measures you can put in place to increase your comfort. If you are using a laptop, a separate screen to position level with your eyes can make a real difference. If you cannot obtain or afford a separate screen, raising the laptop onto a few books with a separate keyboard and mouse works well too.
If you are sitting on a kitchen chair, you may need to sit on a cushion to be at the correct height for the table with perhaps another cushion or a book to place your feet on so they aren’t dangling. A rolled up towel in the small of your back can support your posture. You could try increasing the screen size on a laptop to over 100%.
Have a look at our advice video on desk set up here.
For a self assessment form for the ideal work set up at your desk, download our check list.
The best evidence for avoiding muscular and joint aches and pains is regular movement. As with any situation when working at a desk, variations in posture are very important – regular movement away from your desk. Perhaps try having your printer in a different part of the room, take phone calls standing up, go upstairs/downstairs to use the toilet, regular stretches. Even small chores can be a good activity eg. unloading the dish washer. Aim to move from your desk every half hour (you could set a reminder on your phone); you’ll also be surprised at how this can help productivity and alleviate stress. Your body will tell you when it is starting to get stiff – listen to it!
Eat and Drink Well
Try not to get tempted by the goodies in your kitchen – although moving to get drinks is good activity! Keep hydrated with soft drinks, don’t just rely on caffeinated drinks.
Whatever your form of exercise, try to do something. We have home exercise programmes on our You Tube channel for those slightly less active and there are plenty of exercise programmes online if you don’t want to go outside. Otherwise, go out for a jog, a bike ride or a walk. If you are taking on a new form of exercise, then have a look at our blog post on avoiding injury or overloading here.
Don’t Expect Too Much From Yourself or “Normal” Productivity
This is a difficult and unusual time. Don’t expect to be able to produce your “normal” amount of workload. Looking after your mental health is equally important. Take time out for a bit of social interaction, perhaps via virtual work meetings or the odd text message to work colleagues – but don’t keep checking your phone!
If you usually work in a busy and lively environment, you may find having a radio on quietly in the background helps you.
Take breaks which involve moving away from the desk; a little trip outside into the garden, if you have one, can do wonders.
Ensure you have time to relax at the end of the day – whether that is a good chat with your partner in the kitchen, watching TV, playing with the kids or doing some exercise. Something to switch off from the end of your working day.
If you are struggling with your work output, speak to your manager and explain the situation. You may be surprised to find how many other people are struggling.
Try to stick to a routine before you go to bed and getting up at a regular time in the morning. Don’t take your phone or tablet to bed with you, don’t drink caffeine within a couple of hours before going to bed. Good sleep hygiene is important – have a look out at our blog post for advice on getting a good night’s sleep.
Let’s not kid ourselves (excuse the pun!) – this is a tense time for all of us. You may all be fighting for space, feeling bored and frustrated, perhaps stressed too. Try to have a bit of patience with each other at home, communicate well and take time out – even if it is just a hot bath or a cup of tea in the garden – away from everyone else. Most of all, be kind to yourself.
Hopefully you have found some of these tips useful. If you are experiencing back pain, there are some simple exercises on our You Tube channel here. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need some help with aches and pains. We are available for video and telephone consultations to provide advice and a specific exercise programme for you.
You may also be interested in our Wellbeing At Work services.