Tips for comfortable home working

Monday, 7 September 2020

Like it or not COVID-19 has seen most employees needing to work from home and companies madly pivoting to make it happen. While working from home is an important measure to reduce the spread of infection, and may be the future for many workplaces, it can pose risks to your health. Michael Baveas, Director and Workplace Health Strategist at Well InForm, shares some insights and strategies.

The home office

While many of us may not have the tools and equipment to create the ideal set-up, you can implement some practical solutions to improve your ergonomic comfort.

Chair, desk, monitor, keyboard

If you do not have an office chair, using a dining chair can be an adequate substitute. Consider adding some cushions to make the chair more comfortable and to prop you up higher so you can comfortably reach the keyboard.

If you are working off a laptop, you may want to consider using an external keyboard and mouse. This allows you to raise your laptop screen up to a position that allows you to sit a bit more upright. A few large books can raise your laptop screen to a more suitable height.

Lighting, noise and temperature can also affect your workspace. Consider these factors when choosing a space to work from.

Routine

Now the daily commute has been reduced to a mere few metres, it does pay to maintain a strong routine when it comes to preparing and completing your workday. Start with the basics such as preparing lunch ahead of time and maintaining a routine about your day. For example, diarising lunch and movement breaks and setting limits on technology and other digital distractions. Close off your email and other communication platforms for blocks of time to help you focus on the task at hand.

Musculoskeletal issues

Back and neck pain as well as other musculoskeletal issues can creep in when working from home. While your home office set-up should be looked at, it is just as important to recognise that being in any position for too long will lead to muscle fatigue. Break up periods of sitting regularly to promote blood flow, reduce fatigue and help regulate your blood glucose and energy levels. Strategies to break up sitting may include taking phone calls while standing or on the move, introducing some brief stretches and getting out for some sunshine in your breaks.

Exercise

Working from home may see your activity levels drop and this reduced activity can impact your wellbeing and physical health. Any movement or exercise is beneficial, so look to introduce things that you enjoy. Get creative at home with makeshift exercise equipment. Try filled water bottles for hand weights, use the steps in your home to improve cardiorespiratory (heart and lung) fitness, and floor based exercises for whole body strengthening.  For more information on exercises you can do at home click here.

Relieve stress

Covid-19 has brought with it a heightened sense of worry and concern. This stress can lead to tight muscles and shallow breathing, all of which feed into our pain responses. If you are experiencing back or neck pain while working from home, this may be related your mental health. There are strong connections between pain and  emotional health.

Use strategies such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques, regular meditation or simply sitting in nature or with your pet, to reduce the impacts of ongoing stress and anxiety. Diaphragmatic breathing can also help relieve anxiousness, tension and shallow breathing. To practise diaphragmatic breathing breathe in for four seconds (drawing in from your stomach), hold your breath for four seconds and then exhale for four seconds. By repeating this process you will focus on your breathing and stay in the present. Slowing your breathing and your heart rate can help alleviate stress.

Michael’s four top tips to improve your working at home experience

  1. The right lighting: Too much or too little lighting can make it difficult to read and focus. Controlling the light entering the room and or reflecting off surfaces can make a big difference. Try adjusting your blinds or curtains, use a reading lamp or move your screen to reduce glare. Avoid looking at the screen for too long – every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  2. Mentally healthy practises: Try to maintain a clear boundary between home and your ‘home office’. Get a daily dose of sunshine and look for ways to stay socially connected.
  3. Posture: Comfort is key! Try using some props such as cushions and towels to improve comfort in your chair. However, remember your next posture is your best posture. Sit less and move more.
  4. Stay well: Quality sleep, proper hydration, healthy eating and physical activity are key factors to manage your focus, productivity and overall wellbeing.

For guidance around working from home and ergonomic considerations, including exercise options, call the NDSS helpline on 1800 637 700 to speak with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist. You can also speak with one of our other health professionals such as an Accredited Practising Dietitian, Diabetes Educator or Clinical Psychologist.

Interview w/ Michael Baveas Director of Well InForm, by Hayden Kelly, AEP, Diabetes NSW & ACT

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