It's been over a year since many people were forced to retreat to home to work due to Covid shutting offices down. As someone who has spent many years helping out people who work from home, in terms of finding easy, attractive, ergonomic and not too over the top pricey, home workstation setups, but who has stepped away from that arena since December 2019, I was interested to see if there was better information available and if businesses were taking more responsibility for their staff’s welfare.
Sadly, it seems that No is the answer. I realised when I was talking to a young professional design-industry based woman about working from home recently. She was among the approximately third of the population of Covid home workers who was still working at the kitchen table on her laptop. The inevitable result was tight upper back and shoulder muscles, tired eyes, and frustration (and I’m sure, reduced productivity).
So do some research about workstation set up and if you’re not sure where to start, get some professional advice which can be a visit from an occupational therapist specialising in workstation set up, or check if they can provide an assessment via a Skype call into your home office. s://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/decor/121633039/ There’s a fantastic short video at the beginning of this article on an adjustable desk which you can put together yourself and pack away if you are short of space – well done to the designer of this! Good for some people but not everyone.
But, this was a long article which could be challenging to keep the reader’s attention.
What I also found was the usual “designer” home workstation, with really unsuitable non adjustable chairs, desks with lips under the top surface which would limit any higher level of sitting to avoid hunched shoulders, and invariably, the laptop sitting flat on the desk which will lead to a forward leaning position and very tight neck muscles. I really thought we’d moved beyond this type of home workstation design advice, so it was frustrating to see how hard it was to find concise, easy to follow advice.
According to an injury management health professional quoted in a Stuff article https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/300236431/ “his business has seen a marked increase in ‘passive’ injuries during the pandemic.
Many people have found themselves glued to video conferencing, working from the kitchen table, sitting on poor quality chairs or huddled over laptops, he says. “Ergonomically it’s just a disaster.”
Common problems include tension headaches, neck pain, shoulder dysfunction, back pain and lumbar disc issues from prolonged sitting.
Does this sound familiar to you?
The video accompanying this article talks in a positive way about taking breaks, getting away from the desk. These are really important parts of the working day but if you are not set up correctly in the first place, these ‘niggles’ will cascade down on you much more rapidly. By the time you’ve been to see a massage therapist or physiotherapist, it’s too late.
So, do some research about workstation set up and if you’re not sure where to start, get some professional advice which can be a visit from an occupational therapist specialising in workstation set up, or check if they can provide an assessment via a Skype call into your home office.
Or check out if your employer will consider getting a health professional to come in and talk to everyone either in person or via Zoom, to give some useful tips on setting up your home office, with advice on where to go to find appropriate furniture. For any employers reading this, this will be money so well spent in terms of more productive staff and gratitude that you care about their wellbeing when they are working from home. It’s a win win situation!
Written by Jane Cowan-Harris, Guest Blogger and previous owner of WorkSpace IQ
Randa Abbasi is a New Zealand trained Occupational Therapist and owner / operator of WorkSpace IQ. Randa has over 25 years experience in leading and managing teams in the health sector and specializes in ergonomics, wellbeing, personal and professional development and clinical supervision.
Randa can be reached at WorkSpace IQ | Home Mobile: 021 1971 060