Working from home is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can sleep in because there’s no commute, cook your own lunch, and wear your favorite pajamas all day. On the other hand, it can be a constant struggle to find comfortable spots at home to do work without distractions, especially if you’re sharing space with roommates, family, or partners. For me, my couch and bed served as my home office space, which I recently realized was a poor choice due to the unbearable back and neck pain I woke up with one morning.
At first, I thought working from the couch and bed was amazing. I was no longer tied to a desk! I could lay out with my laptop and no one would judge me! What started out as excitement eventually evolved into regret when my terrible posture from slouching on the couch and bed took a toll on my spine. I woke up, unable to turn my head or move my upper body without it hurting, and immediately knew my misaligned spine over the months caught up to me.
After a doctor confirmed that my neck pain was most likely due to strain on my neck and back from working in unconventional positions, I made it a priority to fix my home office set up, correct my posture, and ultimately save my body from further deterioration, especially since working from home will be the norm indefinitely.
Here are the changes I’ve implemented at home to make sure the long days spent on a laptop don’t ruin my body. Try them out–your future self will thank you!
1. Designate a workspace with ergonomic furniture
The most important item you could buy to improve your work-from-home life is an ergonomic task chair. I definitely took the chairs and desks for granted when I worked in an office. They didn’t seem particularly special when I sat on them, so I didn’t realize the magnitude of a good desk chair’s effect on my wellbeing until I spent time doing work without one.
I decided on a chair that is fully adjustable and forces me into an upright position so my body remains in the correct posture, which means it isn’t as comfortable to lounge in. America’s most popular office chair is the Herman Miller Aeron for good reason, but a more affordable option to consider is a chair from Modway.
To relieve pressure on your knees and lower back, make sure your seat height allows for your knees to bend at a 90-degree angle when you’re sitting. Your elbows should rest on top of the desk at a 90-degree angle as well. I ended up purchasing a footrest on Amazon by Dr. Cushion since I’m on the shorter side and need one to maintain the right position for my arms and legs. It has an understated design with a removable cover that can be machine-washed, which is necessary in a dusty house like mine.
2. Practice daily stretches to strengthen your neck and back muscles
Incorporating quick stretches into your daily morning and nighttime routines can help alleviate the stiffness from being in a chair all day on a computer. Focus on stretches that target your neck, shoulders, upper back, and lower back for maximum tension release. Some of my favorites are listed below from Healthline.
Neck side bend and rotation
3. Take care of your eyesight with blue-light blocking glasses
I’m not proud of it, but the screen-time app on my phone shows an increase of more than 20% for the amount of time spent on my devices, compared to my activity pre-pandemic. The blue light emanating from screens has been slowly affecting my quality of sleep and vision throughout the years, but it was really noticeable over the past few months.
I tried blue-light blocking glasses, which have made my eyes feel less tired, coupled with leaving “night mode” on permanently on my iPhone (it’s in the display settings and tints your screen a sepia color to block blue light). You can read more about how blue light from screens could harm your eye cells here.
This pair from Zenni has flexible arms to accommodate those with bigger heads like mine, and feel weightless. The square shape is ultra-flattering and looks super chic too. You can customize the lenses to include a variety of features, but I recommend having a pair dedicated to blue-light blocking lenses.
Poor posture and eyesight might sound like problems that won’t affect us until our later years, but being homebound for long periods of time definitely exacerbates issues more. The spine is literally the backbone of physical health. It’s important to take care of our physical wellbeing in addition to our mental and emotional health. Now, sit up straight!