Most Australian organisations have some or all staff working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. For a lot of people, that came at quite short notice, as employers moved quickly to protect their people. Also, many Aussies are experiencing the 'work from home' life for the very first time. All of this means that our home office set-ups might not ideal ergonomically, which can impact upon good posture. If you're currently using one of the dining room stools or slouched on the lounge with your laptop propped on a stack of books − it's time to listen up!
Correct workstation ergonomics can help you be more comfortable, experience less stress, and reduce injuries caused by awkward positions and repetitive tasks.
If you already worked from home regularly, it's worth checking your set-up to see if it needs a tweak or even a complete overhaul.
CBHS wellness consultant and sport scientist James Wolfenden shares his tips for better posture, and hopefully a more productive and happier workday!
Choose a comfortable chair
A chair is the thing you are interacting with the most during the day, so you need to be happy with it. You’ll want something that is comfortable for you, whilst still encouraging you to sit up straight. You don’t necessarily need to get any special lumbar support device unless a doctor has already recommended you do. If not, a 'support' device can stop you from developing the strength you need to support your own posture.
You can read a detailed guide to choosing an office chair here.
Consider a monitor
Small laptops in particular force you to hunch over to type or see the screen. The more you need to look down at a screen, the more kyphotic (where your head sits more in front of your shoulders and curves the neck) your posture will be. By attaching a laptop to one or two external monitors, and elevating them, you'll go from looking down at a screen, to looking directly ahead. You will feel an immediate improvement in your posture.
Go wireless with your mouse and keyboard
In combination with the external monitor, a wireless keyboard and mouse can free you from the limitations your laptop has when it comes to comfort and posture. This will allow you to freely adjust the distance between the screen and the keyboard to better open up your chest.
The wider the keyboard the better, typically, but it is dependent on how broad your shoulders are. You want to see how well you can keep your shoulder blades back whilst you type. There aren't a lot of keyboards that will be perfectly suited to everyone, but you at least want to avoid small, narrow keyboards like on small laptops.
Control the clutter
This one is really about personal preference. Some people don’t mind a bit of extra stuff on their desk, but some people find it suffocating. The main thing is to make sure that your home office area isn't so cluttered it's making you feel cramped, because a natural response to feeling cramped is often to physically shrink up, which is terrible for posture.
Find some office accessories, like drawers, wall organisers or some small desk shelving. You can order online from places like Ikea or Kmart.
Organise your cords
One of the quickest ways to get sick of your set up, is getting tangled in cords or having to position everything around them. There are various cable-organising options available to buy, from small clips to cable trays that run underneath your desk.
Take a stand with a sit-to-stand desk or attachment
Now more than ever, we need to find ways to cut down on sitting time. Standing desk set-ups are great for this, but they can be expensive. Adjustable height desks can be $1,000 or more but sit-to-stand add-ons can be more affordable (however, they are bulky). Have a look around to see if one of those options might be suitable for your budget and needs.
Got a ball? Test your set-up now
While sitting at your desk, get a tennis or golf ball (or similar) and place it between your shoulder blades. Now hold that ball between your shoulder blades and the back of your chair and see how long you can go without letting it drop whilst you work. If it is difficult or impossible to do that, you might need to adjust some things in your set up to allow for that position.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.