Working from home certainly has a lot of upsides, but one downside that I have seen in my clinic is an increase in repetitive strain injuries and non-specific wrist pain. Over the last couple of years Covid has pushed the workforce out of the office and into the “home office,” with most people still doing a combination of both. The “home office” set up does not seem to match up ergonomically with the work office. People are often working from the kitchen table, using a laptop, and sitting on a dining chair which can’t be adjusted. Ergonomically speaking, this is not ideal!
One of the biggest impacts caused by working from home is a lack of movement throughout the day, which has contributed to wrist pain and injury. I’m not talking about doing a 30 minute jog over your lunch break, but just small incidental exercise, such as walking down the corridor to a meeting, which moves your muscles and allows them to have a small rest. The short walk to the train, to grab a coffee, to attend a meeting or chat with a colleague means throughout the working day people are continually changing postures and using different muscles. This small amount of movement makes a big difference!
When at home remember to move or change posture every 30 minutes. Just standing up and sitting back down again between online meetings can be very beneficial over a working day. Or alternating between a sitting desk and a standing desk can be a good way to change posture regularly. A short walk outdoors at lunch time does wonders for the body (and mind).
Consider these points when setting up a space to work from at home. Ideally a chair should have a good back support, allow your feet to rest flat on the floor and your knees positioned at 90 degrees. Your computer screen should be at eye level, which is rarely achieved when working from a laptop. When using a keyboard your arms should be by your side, your elbows should be at 90 degrees, and your wrists should be level (not bending forward or backwards). Using a laptop stand which raises the height of the screen, with a separate keyboard that allows your arms and wrist to maintain a more ergonomic posture, helps to avoid injury.
Clients often ask if an ergonomic mouse or mouse pad are a good idea. I recommend avoiding gel mouse pads, as they put increased pressure through the carpal tunnel which can lead to compressing the median nerve. Rather than an ergonomic mouse, I recommend maintaining good wrist posture on a standard mouse and alternating mouse use in both hands to balance the workload.
Working from home has so many advantages but make sure you create a good ergonomic workstation at home and move regularly to avoid injury.