Working from home: Adapting for comfort

Working from home: Adapting for comfort

Tips for sitting comfortably at your desk are pretty easy to find, so I am not going to focus too much on that in this blog. However, one thing I will say is that you are aiming for a sitting position whereby everything is at right angles, your ankles, your knees, your hips, your elbows - see the Health and Safety Executive website for more information here (https://www.hse.gov.uk/msd/dse/).  Today, I would like to focus on the unique situation we continue to be in and how you can adapt whatever work setup you have to get yourself comfortable. 

Regular breaks


The best way to ensure day long comfort, wherever you are working, is to move regularly. Firstly, I encourage everyone to take their allocated breaks, to ensure that you get away from your screen, move your body and refuel. Additionally, I implore you to move a few times an hour, be that a trip to the bathroom, a visit to the kitchen to make a drink, or a walk to the window to ponder a workplace conundrum, or simply enjoy the view for a minute or two. If you have a deadline and time does not permit, simply stand up and sit back down every twenty minutes. Ideally, if you are constantly using DSE, you should aim to have a break from staring at your PC for five minutes every hour. 

Desk set up


At work, most of us are blessed with a desk and chair, or a hot desk, that can be tweaked to our individual needs. For those of you who are new to working from home, you most likely do not have the luxury of a purpose built home office and therefore have had to make do with what you had at home, such as a dining table. Here are a few ideas to try if you are feeling uncomfortable:

·         Your desk is likely a fixed height, but adjustable if you add something to the base of the legs, such  as building blocks or even books (please ensure they are identical in size/length to ensure that you don’t have a wobbly desk). Or, you could also raise the table top with large books, a chopping board, magazines, yoga blocks, unopened reams of peer, basically anything that you can place on your table to raise it slightly. Ideally, your arms should rest on the working surface with your elbows bent at 90 degrees, easily reaching the keyboard and mouse. 

·         Standing desks are becoming more popular in the workplace and are great for alternating position, depending on your needs. This is achievable at home, by resting your device on a shelf, the kitchen work surface, a cupboard, or even a chest of drawers, depending on their height. A comfortable standing position can be achieved with your device at a good height for what you need to do, i.e. I would recommend a different height for typing and reading. Ideally, the top of the screen should be level with your eyes when you are reading and if you are typing/using the mouse, again, your elbows should ideally be at 90 degrees. 

·         Seat: You only need a foot rest if your feet do not comfortably touch the ground whilst sat in your chair. If you do need one, look around the house to see what you have, things that might work are a box/shoe box, reams of paper or magazines, as long as they are stable. The chair height can be raised by sitting on a cushion, or a folded up towel or blanket. You could even use some yoga blocks, although they are likely a little too firm for long term sitting. If you need a lumbar support, this can be achieved by rolling up a towel or blanket and positioning it in the lower curve of your back, just above your pelvis. We are all different, so experiment to find the perfect fit. I would suggest this anyway if you are considering buying a lumbar support cushion, as it will give you a good idea of whether it is useful to you and what size and shape would be beneficial.

·         Good head placement. Remember to try and maintain a good head position however you are working, especially if you are prone to neck discomfort. Your head is very heavy, and so rather than angle your neck to read, type, or text etc, raise up your device to a good level for your arms and eyes. If using a laptop, this is achieved with a separate screen, high enough that the top of the screen is level with your eyes. This can easily be achieved at home by placing the screen stand on to a pile of books. If a separate screen isn’t an option, ensure that the screen is angled sufficiently that you aren’t having to spend all day hanging your head down. This may require a separate keyboard and mouse. 

What to do if you don’t have a desk ?


Most of us don’t live in a castle, so room options are limited and furniture may well dictate where you work from. Your bedroom is fine, but I would dissuade you from working from your bed as you will likely tell yourself it is only for a few minutes, but you will probably be there for longer. Beds were not designed to be sat on for long periods and they do not offer you enough support to maintain a comfortable position. If you must, try to limit the time and activity you work from bed, i.e. short term and whilst watching something using pillows for support. I would also dissuade you from working from the bathroom, water and electricity don’t mix! Working from the sofa is possible but not ideal, as most sofas do not offer enough support and you are likely to end up slouching in an awkward position, so focussed on your work that you do not notice the building discomfort. If you have a firm sofa or arm chair, it may be an option, but use cushions to support yourself. The arms of an armchair might come in handy for resting a tray or chopping board on, to fashion a makeshift desk top that is a suitable height for typing. 

Remember to utilise anything that your workplace have offered, i.e. a DSE assessment, a chair, a screen etc to be sent home. But most importantly, and this is applicable if you are currently working from home, as well as when you return to the office, make the time to be comfortable every day. It takes two minutes to quickly scan your sitting position and make the necessary adjustments, and it will really make a difference to your ongoing comfort.

If you have any queries, or if we can be of any help, please remember that we are available via the telephone or video consultation.

Looking forward to seeing you all again soon. 

Glynis and the team at Eyre Place

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