Working from Home and The Art of Improvisation
Posted by Fiona Gavine on the 04th May 2020
Working from Home and The Art of Improvisation by Sue Watson, Craniosacral Therapist.
So many of us find ourselves working from home having left the workplace with minimum time to take what we could in the event of several weeks at home. Some will be fortunate enough to have a study, an office space or some place to clear out to provide the physical and mental space to carry on in some capacity at home. Others – like myself will have 2 adults attempting to find space in a small house with 2 teens, a cat and a dog – and for some the home-school classroom has to be created as well.
The ideal workstation position will give you a guide but most of us will be tapping away on our laptops seated on a dining chair – So how can you maximise what you have and what few added extras will make the difference?
Let’s look at the office standard – something all employers should be assessing and providing according to HSE guidelines (depending on hours worked)
Here are a few tips to adapt in your home environment and for using a laptop
Before setting up – consider:
Lighting and reflection – if possible, avoid direct light and avoid a reflection on your screen, and remember this will vary through the day.
Trip hazards – as your laptop starts to fail – will you need to plug in? Keep it safe.
Seating – if you have a hard dining chair consider some kind of padding – avoiding cushions as these will not provide a level base of support – perhaps a folded blanket or towel, or a seat pad if you have one. A great alternative to help with movement and circulation is an air cushion. Beware though, use for a few minutes at a time and increase as you get used to it. I often recommend these for neck and back pain, but they do take getting used to.
Seat height – will vary with your height, ideally thighs supported horizontally or hips slightly higher than knees, this helps maintain the lumbar curve in your back – but definitely not knees higher than hips, this will increase the curve and strain on your lower back and force a ‘poking’ chin/strain on your neck.
Desk height – ideally forearms parallel to the desk surface and your keyboard. This is obviously not going to be possible at a dining table for many tall folk, so considering table raisers – small plastic holders that raise the table legs – some offer adjustment within the raiser.
Screen and keyboard – this is where spending a few pounds will be the best #workfromhome money spent. Being able to have your screen at eye level and your arms and hands at desk height is an absolute must for your neck, back and eyes. A raiser for your laptop allowing eye level viewing and a Bluetooth/USB keyboard at a suitable height.
For screen height and distance – roughly eye level with the top of the screen and at an arms’ length distance away.
Using 2 screens – if you don’t have space to accommodate the screens side by side, can you have one above the other with the bulk of the work of the one that provides best posture – still ensuring suitable distance away and so separate keyboard if possible.
Standing desk. If there are two of you working from home, consider swapping at lunch time. Setting a standing space can take a bit of ingenuity at home, but breakfast bars and a brief case for added height, I have a perfect sized flat top bread bin to rest the keyboard – get creative, raise your surface! Together these can form a great alternative to sitting all day.
And if you fancy some challenge with added movement and balance – standing on an aircushion can be an interesting experience. **This is a skill and must be risk assessed and practiced before use** This is a personal favourite of mine! (added fact – if you are dyslexic standing on an air cushion can improve reading skills).
Equipment of improvisation
- Laptop Raiser (£20-£50)
- Bluetooth or USB keyboard (£30 – £100)
- Air cushion – (my preferred one is a SitFit by Sissel – £25.00)
- Table raisers (£12.99 and up)
- Hands free phone arrangement
- Noise cancelling headphones – luxury item to zone out the kids (and avoid knowledge of all domestic tasks)
How often should I take a break?
5-10 mins every hour for sure, but every 20 mins is ideal. There are no set industry guidelines other than ‘regular breaks’.
What can I do to keep my body happy?
Get up and move – if there’s one thing that will help – it’s just that – MOVE, move, move!
- increases circulation
- allows blood to flow to areas that may have been tense or squashed during sitting
- lubricates joints
- warms the muscles
Deep breathing – 3 deep breaths in // 3 long slow breaths out – call it a micro-moment of stress reduction and ensuring good ventilation – especially pertinent with COVID-19 affecting the capacity to breath. Any practice to reach those lower lobes of the lungs will help in a time of need.
Stretches – Stretches offer a few things:
- Brings awareness to our body, helping us to hear it when it talks to us
- Feel comfort and ease by changing position
- Affects the circulation, especially if repeated a few times
- Helps with promoting a mind-body connection – good for stress reduction
However – stretches sitting in your chair are no substitute for getting up and moving!
Keep hydrated – go make a cuppa, get a glass of water. While the kettle is boiling climb the stairs a few times and while the bag is brewing take a lap of the garden, breathe some fresh air.
Look out onto nature – by distancing your focus and allowing a wider visual field it taps into the parasympatheic nervous system – this is the part of the nervous system that plays a role in relaxation. So simply looking at a moving tree or the clouds can be useful if work is stressful or you are uncomfortable.
Visiting the toilet – Sit to stand 10 times when you’re done – keep those quad’s firing!
Add a fun goal – learn to juggle, use a diablo, do a press up – your home is your office, no one will see!
Last few tips:
- Stretches should never be painful – ease back if they are
- Always introduce new moves/stretches/positions slowly and build from there.
- You’re at home – take advantage of trying some new things you probably wouldn’t in the office!
- A container or boundary around working time will be essential – start time/stop time, ensure breaks, kettle stops, a stroll into the garden, gaze through the window – whatever you do get up and move around regularly.
Remember we are all different and this is general advice. If you have any special requirements and/or pain or disability you may want to refer to specialist information.
Sue Watson is a qualified and experienced Physiotherapist and offers Craniosacral Therapy at One Allan Park wellbeing Clinic.