1. Separate workstation
Though it can be tempting to haul your laptop into bed after having snoozed your alarm for the 7th time, turning your mattress into your office can trigger a slew of back problems. This is why we suggest setting out a distinct workstation during your office hours – be it your living room, study or even your kitchen. The idea is to get out of bed and work while maintaining good posture, because it’s tricky to be productive when you’re in pain.
2. Ergonomic desk space
Making it from the bed to a chair is a big step, but in order to preserve your back muscles, the conditions also need to be right. Because although this is what most of us do in an office, we’re not built for sitting all day. So when we do, it’s important to align our bodies as best we can, to avoid putting pressure on specific body parts, and to limit neck, knee, or lower back pain. Here are some tips:
Your feet should be flat on the floor, with your knees in line with your hips. Your hands should be relaxed, with your elbows near 90 degrees, so you don’t have to bend your wrists much to type.
Try to keep your back straight and avoid tensing or slouching your shoulders. This can pinch nerves in your body, and can spread to your hands and arms. If you find yourself hunched, invest in an ergonomic chair or lumbar support.
Although it can easily happen when you’re engrossed in your work, avoid sticking your neck forward and keep your monitor at eye-level so that your neck rests in a natural position – it’ll relieve stress from your body. Consider a computer stand or adjustable seat otherwise.
Ideally, you should be around an arm’s length away from your computer, with easy access to your keyboard. Keep your keyboard and mouse as close to each other as possible.
Working on a laptop is not ideal when it comes to ergonomics, because if the screen is at the right height, then the keyboard isn’t, and vice versa. Invest in an external keyboard and mouse to avoid this.
3. Standing desk
Another option when it comes to desks, is to get a standing one. It allows you to alternate between sitting and standing, which is one of the healthiest things you can do to keep your back muscles strong. Frequently switching positions has been shown to improve blood flow, engage and strengthen the large leg muscles, and stabilise your core – keeping your body running optimally.
You can even add an ergonomic ball to your daily routine. The instability of the ball requires you to activate your core muscles, which leads to improved posture and decreased discomfort. Plus it’s like sneaking an undercover workout in while you work!
4. Regular mini-breaks
Now that you know how to optimise your desk time, let’s talk about breaks. We often park ourselves in our chairs for the day, expecting our bodies to rev up instantly after having been shut down for hours. But unlike a car, our bodies need regular movement to stay in tip top condition. So it’s important to move every so often – even if it’s just around your home. A 5-10 mins break every hour or so is a good way to improve circulation and prevent muscle stiffness.
5. Walking meetings
Once you’ve started taking regular breaks, you can consider other “sitting” situations you may want to turn into “standing” or “walking” situations. Like meetings for example: if you don’t particularly need a screen or video for your call, try an audio catch up while you take a walk. It can even shift the dynamics of a meeting by making your body and mind more alert.
6. Back exercises
Finally, more vigorous exercise is probably the most sustainable way of supporting your spine and freeing yourself from back pain. Combining moderate strength training with regular stretches will increase your stability while improving your mobility. Yoga stretches like child’s pose or cobra are a great way to get movement in your spine.
In fact, if you’re looking for a way to implement a healthy back routine into your working day, we’ve got exactly what you need. VAHA trainer Nikolai has put together a free 7-day FitBack challenge made to give your body more strength and flexibility. And since it only takes 15 minutes and a yoga mat at most, you can squeeze it into one of your regular mini-breaks.
The workouts are designed for every fitness level and will be sent to you every day via video link – just add your details here and say “bye bye” to back pain!