A step-by-step guide to ensuring your home office isn’t injuring your body

A skeletal therapist and leading posture expert has revealed exactly how you should set up your home office to avoid back pain and work-related injury. 

Sydney-based Dell-Maree Day said while many of us were not prepared to be working from home full-time when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a few alterations in order to work without hurting yourself.

‘There is so much potential to injure yourself while working from home, particularly with the rise of Zoom meetings which mean you’re staring at a screen all day instead of across a table at someone’s eyes,’ Dell-Maree told FEMAIL.

A skeletal therapist and leading posture expert has revealed exactly how you should set up your home office to avoid back pain and work-related injury (Dell-Maree Day pictured)

A skeletal therapist and leading posture expert has revealed exactly how you should set up your home office to avoid back pain and work-related injury (Dell-Maree Day pictured)

A skeletal therapist and leading posture expert has revealed exactly how you should set up your home office to avoid back pain and work-related injury (Dell-Maree Day pictured)

‘We often forget that there are vast networks of muscles that we can’t see in the body, and these are muscles that are rarely reached by exercise.

‘To reawaken them and get a healthy stacked spine and balanced body, you need to sit correctly with your body tall and relaxed.’

How can you improve your posture without spending money? 

While it’s easy to assume your posture when working from home is acceptable, Dell-Maree said there are many things you could be getting wrong, as sitting is actually compromising the body’s most ergonomic position of standing upright. 

How can you improve your WFH setup without spending?

1. Find a separate room to work in, or at the very least a private nook.

2. Move a desk and your computer into that area permanently so you’re not hot-desking around your house.

3. If you are sitting too low, then elevate your chair with a sturdy cushion so you are sitting at the right height.

4. Elevate the screen under some books so your eyes are looking directly at the top third of the screen. 

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‘If you don’t want to spend any money at all on your working from home environment, there are still ways to improve it,’ she explained.

These include finding a separate room for working in if you’ve got the space, or a ‘quiet and private nook’ that you can use as a work spot to create a sense of calm.

‘Move a desk into that area and leave your computer permanently in that space, rather than hot-desking around your home using varying tables and chairs with different heights,’ Dell-Maree said.

The expert added that if you find that you’re ‘sitting too low’ at your desk, then you should sit on a sturdy cushion to ensure you’re sitting at the right height.

‘If you have a computer with a detachable keyboard, then elevate the screen underneath some books so your eye level is looking directly at the top third of the screen,’ she added. 

If you don't want to spend money but want to improve your WFH setup, Dell-Maree (pictured) said you should simply move your desk into a nook and sit on a sturdy cushion to raise height

If you don't want to spend money but want to improve your WFH setup, Dell-Maree (pictured) said you should simply move your desk into a nook and sit on a sturdy cushion to raise height

If you don’t want to spend money but want to improve your WFH setup, Dell-Maree (pictured) said you should simply move your desk into a nook and sit on a sturdy cushion to raise height

What about if you want to spend some money?

If you do have a little cash to spend on improving your work from home setup, Dell-Maree said there are a multitude of things you can invest in to help your work.

What are the five things to buy for good posture at your work from home office?

1. A desk at the correct height.

2. A chair with adjustable heights and a good back rest.

3. A decent-sized computer screen with a detachable keyboard and wireless mouse.

4. A decent-sized water bottle, either one or two litres.

5. A sitting and standing desk riser. 

‘The first thing is a desk that is the correct height,’ she said.

‘Get a desk that is the right height for you in relation to a chair. This often means it’s a good idea to buy your desk and chair from the same place so you can see how your body fits with both.’ 

When looking for a good chair, Dell-Maree said it’s a good idea to go for something with adjustable height.

‘A chair with a good backrest can help when you need to rest your back for a few moments, but be careful not to rely too heavily on leaning back the entire time,’ she said. 

By going for something with adjustable height, you’ll be able to make it the perfect height for your desk, but also tweak the height when you want to sit back a bit too.

Finally, objects like a decent-sized computer screen with a detachable keyboard and wireless mouse will go a long way to making sure your working from home setup is a success. 

‘Get a proper computer set up so you can elevate the screen, rest your arms comfortably at the keyboard and use a mouse to the side to optimise your best postural position,’ Dell-Maree said. 

You should also invest in a decent water bottle, whether it’s one or two litres, so you can make sure you’re well-hydrated without having to go to the kitchen the whole time.

Sitting perfectly is all about right angles (pictured); you need to place your feet flat on the floor with your ankles at a right angle to your bent knees and your knees at an angle to your hips

Sitting perfectly is all about right angles (pictured); you need to place your feet flat on the floor with your ankles at a right angle to your bent knees and your knees at an angle to your hips

Sitting perfectly is all about right angles (pictured); you need to place your feet flat on the floor with your ankles at a right angle to your bent knees and your knees at an angle to your hips

What is the perfect posture when sitting at a desk?

What are Dell Maree’s tips for getting the perfect posture? 

*Place your feet flat on the floor with your ankles at a right angle to your bent knees.

* Your knees should be at a right angle to your hips and your forearms on the desk should be parallel at a right angle to the floor.

* Rest your fingers on the middle alphabet line on your keyboard.

* Position your keyboard so your eyes are looking straight ahead at the top third of your screen.

* Sit on the first half of the chair, rather than slumped against the backrest.

* Remind yourself repeatedly to ‘sit up tall and relaxed’.

* Breathe properly. Exhaling for three seconds and then breathing in is a really helpful thing to do.

Sitting correctly is the most important thing when you’re working, whether from home or in an office.

But Dell-Maree said a decent percentage of employees never sit in the right way at their desks.

‘If you want to sit right, place your feet flat on the floor with your ankles at a right angle to your bent knees,’ she said.  

Your knees should be at a right angle to your hips and your forearms on the desk should be parallel at a right angle to the floor.

Once you have the right-angled position set up, Dell-Maree explained you need to rest your fingers on the middle alphabet line on your keyboard, and position your keyboard so that your eyes are looking straight ahead and at the top third of the screen.

‘You should be sitting on the first half of the chair, not slumped against the backrest,’ she added.

If you find you continuously revert to your bad seated habits with your posture, the skeletal therapist said it can be helpful to ‘frequently think the thought “sit up tall and relaxed”. 

‘Making that mind-body connection is going to innvervate your postural muscles just by thinking it,’ she said.

Sitting well isn't just about sitting well; you need to stand up at regular intervals if you find you're not sitting well and move around for a few minutes (pictured)

Sitting well isn't just about sitting well; you need to stand up at regular intervals if you find you're not sitting well and move around for a few minutes (pictured)

Sitting well isn’t just about sitting well; you need to stand up at regular intervals if you find you’re not sitting well and move around for a few minutes (pictured)

Finally, you need to remember that it will take time to sit and sit well:

‘Most people when they are starting out can manage 10-15 minutes of sitting in the correct way,’ Dell-Maree said.

‘If you find yourself starting to fatigue, then stand up for a few seconds and walk a few steps before resuming the position. Your body will develop tolerance relatively quickly, so within a week you should be sitting comfortably for 30 minutes at a time.’

Then, concentrate on your breathing when you can will also help.

‘When people’s posture is poor, they breathe poorly and can end up becoming a breath holder,’ Dell-Maree said. 

‘Exhaling for three seconds and then breathing in is a really helpful thing to do. As soon as you feel your postural muscles fatiguing, just breathe.’  

Dell-Maree is a skeletal therapist and posture expert who runs The Invisible Exercise in Sydney. She is currently running a one-month introduction program for free, where you learn five foundational postures, plus access to skeletal workout videos and audio. 

You then have the option of a monthly membership for $39 per month, or a 10-week program where you learn 10 foundational postures and costs $99.

Link hienalouca.com

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