Almost two years into a global pandemic, working from home has become a way of life for almost 70 percent of full-time Americans, and it is likely to remain a commonplace work solution: 92 percent of workers expect to work from home at least 1 day per week for the foreseeable future.
Remote work brings with it many advantages, from shorter commute times to greater flexibility. However, it also comes with certain health risks if workers do not take proper precautions. Here is a look at 5 ways you can damage your body while working from home, and some suggestions for improving your health while working remotely.
1. Poor Posture
Very few home offices are ergonomically designed, and many employees do not even work from an office. Kitchen tables, chairs, and couches are all serving double duty as workspaces for many Americans.
While these spaces served their purpose during the rapid transition to remote work that occurred in 2020, they present major health challenges by forcing employees to work in slouched positions.
For example, a laptop that sits below your line of sight can force you to bend your head and neck. The wrong chair can force you to slouch forward, creating curvatures in your back and shoulders. A lack of foot support can also force the body forward out of a neutral, aligned position.
All of these problems create poor posture, and that poor posture can lead to a host of painful problems.
2. Neck, Shoulder, and Back Pain
Poor posture can lead to chronic, and sometimes significant, pain in the neck, shoulders, and back. For example, holding one’s head in a neutral, aligned position gives the head a weight of about 12 pounds.
Tilting the head forward even just 15 degrees, however, can increase the weight of the head to 27 pounds. That kind of stress, compounded over an 8-hour workday, can lead to neck and shoulder pain as your muscles grow fatigued and sore.
In addition, prolonged sitting in one position, or sitting in a slouched position, can lead to the weakening of the muscles in the shoulders and back. Lower back pain is often related to this weakening. If left too long, these muscles can begin to deteriorate, leading to further pain.
3. Vision Problems
The head, neck, and shoulders often get the most attention when it comes to remote work health challenges. However, working from home can also create vision problems.
One of the earliest signs of a problem is often eye fatigue. Feelings of soreness, a burning sensation, and even blurry vision indicate that the eyes are strained from too much time close to a screen.
Home offices often contribute to eye strain because they place the computer too close to your eyes. Without the proper distance from your eyes, the screen tires your eyes out quickly, especially over the course of a full workday.
In addition, poor work from home setups can lead to computer vision syndrome. This syndrome includes red, bloodshot eyes; inflammation, dryness, and blurry vision. Severe cases can even lead to permanent vision damage.
4. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The wrists also frequently suffer from the strain of poor work-from-home setups. Keyboards, for example, that are angled too far up can place the wrists in an uncomfortable position.
Too much wrist strain can, over time, lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This nerve compression can lead to numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and may even require surgery to repair.
5. Poor Circulation
Working from home can severely limit your movement during the day by eliminating even the brief walks you used to take around the office.
A sedentary lifestyle created by working from home can lead to reduced circulation through the body. As the blood pumps less frequently, serious health problems can occur, including the following:
- Blood clots
- Leg swelling
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Pulmonary embolism
- Arterial plaque build up
- Heart disease
Healthy Work from Home
There are steps you can take to protect your body while working from home. Here are three of the most important steps you can take to take care of yourself while working remotely.
1. Move more.
The biggest thing you can do to keep yourself healthy during remote work is to literally take more steps. Move more throughout the day. Here are a few ideas for implementing movement into your life:
- Take regular breaks to walk around, get a snack, or go outside.
- Try the 20-20-20 rule. Look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
- Try to stand as much as you sit during the day.
- Change position every 30 minutes.
- Try some home workouts.
2. Set up an ergonomic workstation.
You can also improve your work from home situation by setting up an ergonomic workstation. Here are the key elements of a workstation that places your body into a neutral and aligned position:
- Place your keyboard at an angle pointing down.
- Support your lower back with your office chair.
- Set your backrest to an angle of 100-110 degrees.
- Adjust your seat to place your knees equal to your hips.
- Place your monitor centered and at eye level.
3. Seek out physical therapy.
Many problems can be resolved with an ergonomic workstation and proper movement. However, you may experience chronic pain that requires physical therapy to heal. Never be afraid to seek out professional help for your wrist, head, neck, back, or shoulder pain.
A physical therapist can do more than offer you exercises to help you feel better. They can also provide exercises to prevent the recurrence of pain, provide advice on setting up a workstation that reduces problems, and teach you how to embrace good posture.
Here at In Touch NYC, we want to help you succeed, at working from home and at everything you pursue in your daily life. That is why we offer personalized treatments from skilled and compassionate therapists. Our top-of-the-line approaches and compassionate care can transform your life. Contact us today to learn more!