Working from home? What could go wrong? Majority of the population are now working from home due to COVID- 19. The idea of working from home may be appealing in some respects but your body might be indicating otherwise. Despite being in the comfort of your own home, employees are reporting longer working hours with increased strain[ 3]. For desk workers, prolonged sitting can adversely affect the musculoskeletal system[ 8]
The resultant effects are pain and discomfort caused by an increased load/ tension build up in your muscles, joints and soft tissue. Other indicators are stiffness, fatigue and a decreased concentration which can lead to a lack of productivity[ 4]
Commonly affected areas are; your spine ie. neck, middle and lower back regions followed by the shoulder, hip and wrist joints. However, one should keep in mind that any other joint can also be strained depending on your posture[ 4].
Individuals with pre- existing musculoskeletal or chronic pain conditions, might be at an increased risk for experiencing pain. Any minor physical or emotional strain or stress, can offset symptoms of pain[ 7]
Your work environment also plays a vital role in establishing healthy postural behaviour. A position that supports the natural curves of your spine, helps maintain a good posture for a longer period[ 4]. Ensure that you are sitting at a dedicated desk with a supportive chair[ 2]. Your computer monitor should be placed at an arm’s length away from you; at eye- level or slightly downwards[ 5]. Your shoulders,neck and wrists should be in a neutral and relaxed position with your arms close to your body. Feet should be flat on the floor or supported on a surface, with your knees at ninety degree angles[ 3]. Adequate lighting also plays a critical role to avoid straining the eyes and neck[ 3].
Apart from having good ergonomics and posture, the key to succeeding with work at home, is frequent and correct movement and movement patterns[ 1]. Engage in regular exercise and declutter mentally by practicing meditation[ 5]. In the long run, a sedentary lifestyle and less movement does affect other body functions including our cardiorespiratory, metabolic, immune and hormonal function [ 6]. In these challenging times, we need to maintain the upkeep of our bodies and minds so that we engage, interact and live at an optimal and progressive level.
MOHINI OOKA, PHYSIOTHERAPIST