Lockdown has changed many aspects around everyone’s working lives – especially for those who are working from home. So, how do you convert your living room into an ergonomically correct workspace?
I noticed through my telehealth consultations with several patients that there has been a particular increase in headaches, spinal pain and pinched nerves as a result of suddenly changed habits. Your setup at home may have been sufficient to work at on the odd occasion in the past, but when the coffee table becomes your official desk and your couch replaces an ergonomic chair, you’re likely in for a retaliation from your body!
There are a few things that a desk and a chair need to comply with but you most likely have options around the house that can easily be used to create a temporary solution. What you need from a desk is to be roughly 72cm high, be reasonably stable and have space underneath for your legs. A chair should be roughly 50cm high and 50cm deep.
So, having had a look around my own house for anything fitting the above requirements, I’ve come up with a make-shift desk. I placed 2 couches back to back, spaced far enough apart to balance an ironing board over the back rests and lifted by 2 books, to create the correct height while allowing space for my legs. Any board that’s wide enough to accommodate the width of you/your chair will suffice - perhaps a large chopping board, a shelf from your closet or bits of pallets lying around.
When using a laptop, your neck might take strain from looking down further than usual, but you can remedy this by lifting the back of the laptop with books or an empty lever arch file.
I found a few options for chairs: Low stools, deep couches, crates in the garage, chopped rounds of tree trunks waiting to become firewood and a few low cabinets. NOTHING I’d call ergonomic! So, to give your ‘chair’ a back rest if it doesn’t have one, I suggest you back it up against something solid like a wall or a cabinet. And to improve the comfort of the seat, use something flat like a chopping board or closet shelf topped by something soft like a folded blanket.
To improve the quality of your back rest, roll a towel or 2 up to create a roughly 10-15cm diameter roll, and secure it in place using rubber bands or string. This size should do the trick for most people but you may need to bulk it up or down a bit to suit your back better. Aim for upright but comfortable.
To wrap all of the above up, into a neat work station, shift your hips ALL the way back in your seat, flop forwards to wedge the rolled up towel, horizontally, into the gap you’ve created between your hips and the backrest. Sit up from there, slide your desk close enough to let you sit upright and voila!
While your chair may not come with wheels or built-in adjustments, and your desk is more flimsy that what you’re used to, you’d be surprised how comfortable a home-setup can be when you include the likes of an ironing board, some books and a few towels.
Your greatest struggle might be the increased effort to get in and out from your desk if you’re using a wall as your back rest but please make a point of getting up frequently and see this obstacle as a mini-workout. Please exercise caution so that you do not injure yourself in the process!
Working from home can create problems if you are not mindful of the way you sit and work. But it is possible to create a temporary solution that will support your lower back, neck, shoulders and overall posture.
Should you be unable to rid yourself of pain already plaguing you, you’re more than welcome to get in touch for a telehealth consultation. Your body already has all the answers, but you may need someone like me to translate it for you.
Your health and physical wellbeing should be a priority deserving of quality care. Make sure to discuss any concerns, pain or infection-related, you may have directly with your preferred physiotherapist, so that you can receive the appropriate guidance for your unique situation.
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Valley Centre Offices
396 Jan Smuts Avenue
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