Now so many people are working from home I had a request to advise on a working from home set up and best posture.
If you generally find you are suffering from stiff neck, sore shoulders, back pain, tired wrists, foggy head and headaches then a dynamic workstation is essential. (It’s important to prevent these problems too but we are creatures of only finding solutions for problems we already have)
The information here works just as well for in-office set-ups too.
The beauty of working from home is not just being able to work in your pj’s.
It does give you the advantage of being able to more easily set up a dynamic work station. A dynamic workstation is a way to get more movement into your day, it involves being able to take up different positions as you work as well as fitting in movement breaks.
The advantage of a dynamic workstation is that it relieves and reduces back, hip, neck and shoulder pain and boosts concentration, creativity and productivity.
The main points are to vary your workstation height, be mindful of your posture and to take movement breaks.
1) Your normal everyday desk.
2) Standing desk
3) Floor sitting desk – needs to be a low table rather than
having your laptop on the floor, where you are more likely to hunch over when
However you are working posture is really important. If you are slumped, or tuck your pelvis under
you or poke your head forward for example you are much more likely to suffer
with back ache, shoulder pain, headaches or a fuzzy head.
Why do we end up doing these things? Partly because of the way chairs are designed and partly because we are not designed to be in the same position for long periods of time – which means muscles get tired and other parts of our bodies are called in to help keep us sitting (or standing) for many hours.
Ergonomic chairs and furniture try to help us hold positions for long periods with least injury – but they still do not actually address the problem.
2 Points to help with keeping good alignment are
Most chairs encourage a tucked under pelvis – they slope backwards so it is impossible to sit untucked. A tucked under pelvis puts you in a slouched position and will cause back ache and shoulder pain. Putting a bolster (which can be a rolled up towel or half foam roller) will help untuck your pelvis – this automatically brings you into an aligned posture without straining and will instantly take pressure off your back, shoulders and neck.
You can use a small towel rolled up or a half foam roller, place it under your sitting bones so that your hip bones and pubic bone are lined up.
When you are standing you need to make sure your feet are pointing forwards. You have the weight back in your heels. Get your heels, hips, shoulders and ears lined up. Bringing your weight back in your heels helps you get aligned without thrusting your chest or pelvis. You might not be able to get completely inline. It depends on if you have any tightness or weakness in your back, glutes and legs. It’s important that if you start to get tired you change to sitting or floor sitting to give your body a break. Holding a position for too long will just encourage you to make compensations such as jutting your hip, slouching or leaning on your desk with your arms or even your stomach.
An important point You can’t stand in alignment if you are wearing shoes with a heel – and that is any height of heel. Heels automatically throw your weight forward causing you to thrust your chest and hips forward, meaning our whole body is out of alignment.
A great advantage of being at home means that it is easier to utilise floor sitting. And floor sitting is probably the easiest way to incorporate better alignment and adding in more movement. You still need to bolster and be aware of your alignment markers – having your pelvis in alignment as well as hips, shoulders and ears. But because you are on the floor you can sit in a variety of ways, including cross-legged, kneeling, squatting and outstretched legs.
Changing positions often means your feet, ankles, knees and hips get to move in a variety of ways. Ever time you start to feel uncomfortable you move – this might sound obvious but we have been trained not to wriggle from an early age so learning how to stay still in one position becomes more normal for us than swapping positions.
Start to see discomfort not as something bad and to be avoided but as a signal that your body wants and needs to move.
Because so many of the aches, pains and injuries are caused
by being sedentary for too long, even just changing position from sitting on a
chair, standing and floor sitting will not completely eliminate the
problem. Which brings us to movement
Just doing an hours exercise class before or after your working day won’t change the fact that for the majority of your day you have spent sedentary. Instead, get into the idea of fitting in movement breaks into our day. Every 30 minutes spend 2 minutes doing some kind of movement whether that be stretches or going for a walk round the garden, house or office. Mix it up, do something different each time. In an 8 hour working day you will have clocked up 40 minutes of exercise, you will have mobilised your joints, stretched your muscles, tendons and ligaments and increased your concentration.
Remember eye breaks are also important – spending a minute or so every 20 minutes to look away from the screen will help reduce eye strain, headaches and will clear your mind.
If you would like to delve deeper into dynamic workstations and movement breaks you will find my Movement Breaks programme right up your street. It includes 20 desk-based exercises arranged into 2 minute routines, alignment tips, and print out reminders of the exercises. Just £10 during this quarantine period and yours to keep forever.
Click here for more information and to buy Movement Breaks
Rosie Dhoopun is a Movement Teacher helping people to Move Better and Feel Better.
She specialises in pregnancy and pelvic floor restore with classes both online and in person (groups and 1-2-1’s when circumstances allow)