How to care for your back while working from home

Back pain affects more than 80 per cent of the UK’s population, and perhaps unsurprisingly, office workers are among those with a heightened risk of developing problems.

With millions of individuals now working from home, in line with the Governments COVID19 response – the health and wellbeing should be considered is a high priority for the nation’s remote workforce.

For many people who are used to home working, they may have the comfort of their own office or designated workspace with their ergonomic chair or designated desk. However, for those who may be experiencing home working for the first time, the most likely scenario will be setting up a makeshift working space on the dining room table, kitchen breakfast bar or spare bedroom.

Wherever the space may be, it is important to pay attention to posture and movement during the working day. Poor posture can affect almost every part of the body, the back in particular – but it is also common to get pains in the elbow or wrist joints simply as a result of not sitting properly.

Bad posture can lead to repetitive strain injury, while hunched shoulders can also cause neck pain.

We’ve put together some tips to help optimise your posture and improve your comfort while working from home:

  • Work at a desk or table with adequate knee/foot clearance so that you can sit/stand close to your laptop.
  • Use a separate keyboard and mouse with your laptop if you have them.
  • Position the keyboard and mouse directly in front of you within easy reach.
  • Position your laptop so that the top of the screen is level with your eye height. If you don’t have a laptop riser, use a box file or some books to raise your laptop. Or plug in a separate monitor if you have one.
  • If sitting, use an adjustable chair. Use a rolled-up hand towel for extra lower back support, if needed. If your chair is too low, sit on a cushion to raise your seat height.
  • Maintain a good posture; if sitting, try to ensure that the small of your back is supported. If standing (e.g. at your kitchen worktop), keep your legs, torso, neck and head approximately in line and vertical – don’t slouch, lean or twist to the side.
  • Don’t sit or stand for too long – change your posture every few minutes and take regular micro-breaks away from your laptop.
  • When having a break, try a few simple stretches to stay mobile, and remember to keep drinking water.

According to BackCare (the National Back Pain Association), musculoskeletal disorders are one of the leading causes of sickness absence, costing the UK’s economy an estimated £15 billion annually.

Research suggests that 33 per cent of employees have taken at least one day off work in the last year due to back or neck pain. However, when you learn that office workers in the UK spend the equivalent of 67 days sitting at their desk, you can understand why the figure is so high.

While of course, it is important that businesses experience minimal disruption during the switch to remote working, your health and wellbeing is of equal importance – stay safe.