Have you been struggling to adapt to working long hours on a computer? Has the back/neck pain kicked in yet? I’m here to show you how to avoid all that pain and create an economical and ergonomic workstation for yourself that will put your body first.
I don’t know about you but when I started working online for long hours at the beginning of my journey I really had no idea how to work comfortably on a computer.
Luckily, after suffering through neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, arm pain and eye strain I did a ton of research on how to look after my body while working on a computer. If you follow my tips you won’t have to endure the same consequences I did.
Switching from an active day job where you’re on your feet all the time as I do as a chef to one that involves lots of hours working on your computer isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Who knew spending long hours bent over your laptop would have such a dramatic effect on how you feel?
The problem is that it kind of sneaks up on you. One minute you’re fine and the next you’ve got a crick in your neck and don’t know what to do.
Overcome Neck Pain And Learn Prevention
In this article, I share invaluable stretches with you to overcome your neck pain. Then I take you through my entire desk setup showing you small yet invaluable changes to prevent reoccurrence.
Alright, let’s go.
So first up let’s deal with that neck pain.
This youtube video by Bob & Brad was invaluable to me. My neck muscle strain vanished quickly after repeating them several times a day.
I can highly recommend other videos from these guys too. They have that kind of geeky physio knowledge that reassures you, as well as being funny on camera.
Ok, so now that you’re feeling a bit better, what else do you need to do? I mean you want to avoid it happening again, right?
What Not To Do
Initially, my own personal setup was working on a kitchen table with a standard chair. I just used my laptop on the table in front of me (as in the image to the left).
This is a common of course, especially if you are a regular laptop user. However, it actually isn’t that great for your neck as it is forced forwards. Combine that with some mental stress and lots of hours and bingo! You’ve got neck pain.
6 Tips To Create A Comfortable Home Office
The following tips are the results from the many hours of personal research, trial and error. Some solutions you can improvise for free, and others may have a relatively small cost. All worked for me, and the truth is that I haven’t had neck pain since implementing these changes.
Here we go:
1. Adjust Screen Height
The first thing you need to adjust is the screen height.
Ideally, your screen should be raised up so that the top of the screen is just below eye level. This will prevent you from overstretching the muscles in the back of your neck. You won’t be leaning your head forwards to get a good view and your body will thank you for it.
Quick and Cheap Solution
You can raise your monitor up on a pile of thick books. When you’re happy that you are getting the results that you want, you can upgrade to something more permanent.
A laptop stand like the one that I eventually got (see image below) will provide you with more working space. It will also give you access to ALL your books, instead of having some that are out of action.
Personally, I used big cookbooks for the first couple of months before deciding to treat myself to a laptop stand. I particularly like it as I can tuck my keyboard underneath to get more table space.
Laptop Stand (£15-£50)
2. Hand and Wrist Position
Of course, when you lift up your laptop you will suddenly have problems reaching your keyboard as it will be floating in the air.
The obvious solution is to either borrow or buy a keyboard that you can plug into your laptop. A basic keyboard is not an expensive thing, but there are many different ones to choose from. The image below shows the one that I bought.
3. Relaxing Shoulders
It’s not all about our typing position. A large percentage of the time we are scrolling and clicking with the touchpad.
It may seem easy at first to use your touchpad even when it’s higher up. However, you will soon notice the tension building in your shoulders if you continue.
The solution is a seperate mouse. Opting for a wireless one will keep your desk tidier. Many last a really long time before having to charge them up again.
The one I have (see below) switches itself off to save power when you haven’t used it in a while, which is a great feature.
It really takes the frustration out of using the touchpad even when you don’t have your screen raised up too.
Mouse and mouse mat (£10-£30)
4. Aligning Your Body
Improving your posture has a lot to do with the way you sit.
Having an adjustable chair makes a huge difference to your level of comfort working on a computer. Having the chair lower when you want to watch a webinar or read is more relaxing. Raising yourself up to have a 90-degree angle in your elbow when typing is recommended for good posture. It will also help prevent a numb bum!
Swivel adjustable chair (£60-£150)
Adjustable chairs come in many varieties and price points. Here are a couple of options:
If you’re more hard core than me then you could also try using an exercise ball like this one, which apparently exercises your core as you work. I did briefly use one in the past – you need to be committed at the beginning and build up gradually to get your muscle tone to where it needs to be!
5. Sitting Or Standing?
Many home office workers now are considering the health bonuses of standing desks, at least for some of the working day. Standing while working can increase the blood flow around your body, and generally make you feel more alert.
It may be worth investing in a fit for purpose office desk. However, it isn’t that difficult to try out your own homemade standing desk using items you already have access to at home. Putting your laptop on a box on top of a table for example will allow you to economically see if it will work for you.
Differences in Tables
Also, if you often use a kitchen table for work, you will notice that your chair needs to be higher than when eating to achieve the right posture.
Only you can decide of course if you want to make this investment. It is potentially the most expensive out of the items here. Personally, I chose to keep the table that I’ve got for now.
Standing Desk Solutions
6. Good Posture (£0)
And let’s not forget of course that you are your biggest asset when it comes to looking after your body when working at the computer.
Try these tips to keep feeling good:
- Don’t cross your legs when you’re working
- Adjust the height of your chair and laptop so that you have a 90-degree angle in your elbow and your forearms are parallel to the desk.
- Take regular breaks from the screen to get up and walk around and stretch – every 45 minutes is good to aim for.
- Do yoga a few times a week to help keep everything aligned. If you’re not sure how to start then you might be interested in reading this blog post of mine which describes how.
- Don’t slouch when sitting. Try not to lean on the desk too much, as this will compromise your upper back posture and cause tension later on.
- Drink plenty of water when working to help avoid drowsiness and keep your circulation moving.
Personally, I found getting these few relatively inexpensive items and tips changed my home office world from quite an uncomfortable experience into a dream. And to top it off I haven’t suffered from neck or shoulder pain ever since.
Add onto that some good lighting and some small drawers to store things on your desk like post-it notes and you will create a welcoming space free of unnecessary distractions that you will look forward to being productive in.
Did you change your home work space for the better? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments about what changes you made.