Working from Home? Set Up a Good, Ergonomic Work Space

The pandemic has been going on for the last eight, nine, ten months, and most people are having to work from home. All of our patients are like, “Yeah, I’m working at my kitchen table on a bar stool for the last ten months.” Unfortunately, that is not a good way to sit.

Ergonomics is super important. Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. How is that person working in that environment? If you have a poor ergonomic set-up, you are probably in poor posture. And remember, if you are in poor posture, you are in a chronic stress state. Posture is a window to your health, so if your body is chronically stressed, it is also going to affect your physiology and how well you function. Ergonomics can affect sleep patterns, energy levels, metabolism, inability to lose weight. It really affects the hormone proliferation in the body and how they’re essentially absorbed. It’s not just pain, it is also function of the body that a poor ergonomic set-up can really have a detrimental effect upon.

So, I would certainly start at the top. If you are working for a medium or a large-size company, they should have an HR department that can perform an ergonomic assessment, and you can do those virtually. We can do them virtually from our office. They are going to assess how you’re sitting and then how you’re standing.

From that assessment, they should be able to recommend, obviously, sound ergonomics for your body type. Obviously, every body is different: tall, short, in-between. So essentially, a good desk set-up that is appropriate for your height, and then obviously a good monitor set-up that is appropriate for your height, because that is essentially going to allow you to be in a good seated posture. Also, a good ergonomic office chair, one that has arm rests, is not too high so your legs aren’t hanging or your feet aren’t touching the floor; it’s got a lumbar support.

Sitting is the new smoking, right? All the new research is coming out that sitting 40-plus hours a week is so detrimental. So, we’ve got to start looking at stand-up desks and how we can build in standing into our workday. So, the rule of thumb should be sitting for 20 to 30 minutes, standing for 30 to 40 minutes, and also taking some postural breaks throughout the workday.

If you are self-employed or your company just doesn’t have the resources to perform an ergonomic assessment, you can do it yourself, just have your spouse or your housemate, your loved one take a picture of you from the side, and if you’re seeing a chiropractor, show that chiropractor. And then they are going to be able to give you some recommendations to how you should be sitting. Because we spend a majority of our working day sitting and/or standing, how you are doing it is going to play a big role in how you are feeling and functioning.

Worse-case scenario, you live on your own; there are a lot of people that do that during the pandemic. Jump on Pinterest or Google Images and type in “sound office ergonomics” or “home office ergonomics” and you’ll find dozens of pictures and photos and diagrams. There are some really good ones out there, ones that are going to measure how far your monitor should be from your face, the angle you should have your monitor at, the angle you should have your hip, your elbows. And there’s some really good ones; just aesthetically you’ll be able to see how you should be sitting, and then again, set yourself up, take a look in the mirror, have someone take a picture and just try and get it set up as best as you can.

And when find ourselves working somewhere other than our designated work space, it’s just as important to pay attention to our posture. When everything is in front of us, laptops, tablets, phones, and it’s down by your waist, people are going to look down. The weight of your head, on average, can be anywhere from 10 to 12 pounds. So, when you look down, and add gravity to that equation, the weight of your head slowly pulls that curve out of your neck. And when it pulls curve out of your neck, then it creates all sorts of issues. It’s going to create stress and tension on the soft tissue, it can lead to pain and dysfunction. As you lose your neck curve, the weight’s going to start loading the front of the spine instead of the back, that can lead to disc issues. When your spine is out of alignment and you’re in poor posture, you’re chronically stressed, so that can affect how we function.

So, you should certainly take your ergonomic set-up and how you work very seriously if you’re going to have any sort of longevity in your spinal health. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you have four fingers off of your chest whenever you’re doing anything on your mobile phone, your laptop or you’re reading a book because that keeps flexion, and that means our head coming down towards our chest.

When you’re in good posture and your spine is not under a state of stress and tension, the body is just going to be able to function at a higher rate. So, let’s say you’ve got really poor ergonomics and you’re one of those classic corporate workers, you’ve got the back pain and neck pain, headaches, whatever it may be. There is a very good chance you’re going to have a secondary symptom, and it might be poor sleep, poor mood, poor energy, poor metabolism, inability to lose weight.

By having good posture, which comes through being able to work in a sound ergonomic set-up, you can have less chance of having pain. Also, you’re going to have less chance of developing those lifestyle diseases, the metabolic diseases that are just rampant in today’s society. So an ergonomic set-up is certainly going to protect your lower back and your neck, but it’s also going to protect your nervous system and allow us to function at an optimal rate.

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