Office syndrome is usually found in workers who spend most of their hours working in front of a computer in the office. Well, now we’re working from home you might be finding yourself spending even more time in front of a screen!
What are we talking about?
Like the old adage goes, “prevention is better than cure”. Once you understand what causes it, preventing office syndrome should be easy. Office syndrome is pain or soreness that is often caused by sitting in the same position for too long. What defines how much time is too long depends on the person. Regardless of that, office syndrome can also be blamed on poor posture (which most of us are guilty of) and sitting in awkward positions. Because of this, the muscles contract for prolonged periods and cause tightness which then leads to pain. Apart from a sore neck, back and sometimes wrists, other symptoms include headaches, numb fingers and arms, as well as weak eyesight and dry eyes! Scary stuff! So how do we prevent the symptoms from occurring or at least alleviate the severity?
You’d think that since most of us are working from home that this would be less of a problem. Last week I came to the unfortunate conclusion that my premise was wrong. I started having more back pains than I usually have working at the office, so I decided to find some ways, methods, tips, tricks, or whatever term you want to use, to help with preventing office syndrome. Let’s jump right in.
Ergonomics, Posture, and a Friendly Working Environment
A few things here. Make sure that your computer screen and keyboard are facing you. The monitor should be a little over your eye line and a couple feet away. You need the space so that you can easily move your hands and arms around without scrunching up. Adjust the height of your seat so that it’s comfortable and doesn’t put any strain on your posture. I know adjusting the chair’s height may not be possible with the seat you have at home – so alternatively – you can use pillows to raise your seat’s height or different materials to stack under your screen and keyboards. Speaking of posture, when you’re sitting at your desk you should be upright. Get a back pillow to support your lower back if you need the extra cushion.
Another good thing to do is to change your posture at least once every hour. This will allow your muscles to rest and you’ll also avoid strain from staying in the same position. Same goes for your eyes, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes look away from your screen for 20 seconds at something about 20 feet away. This will allow the eye muscles to get a break which is just as important as any other part of your body. My personal favorite thing to do to rest my eyes is to close them for a minute and then open them to realize that 2 hours have passed. Whoops!
Stretching, Exercising, and Hydrating
Since you’re going to be changing your posture every hour anyways, you might as well get some stretching in. Stand up and walk around the room for a minute. Don’t just go sit in a different room. Stretch your arms, hands, wrists, neck, legs, and back. Everything you can think of stretching. Want to get ahead even more? Start exercising regularly. You don’t have to go kill a 2 hour workout. There are plenty of 15 to 20 minute home workouts that will help you strengthen your muscles and improve blood circulation. The same way you breathe and eat to stay alive, your muscles need exercise for them to be able to breathe and eat.
You might feel like you aren’t thirsty and don’t need much water since you’re not out and about as much, but that is far from true! Our bodies still need to be hydrated. Since you’re getting up to move about and stretch every hour, don’t forget to throw in a glass of water too? I included water in this section because, as you know, your blood is mainly made up of water! This means that drinking enough water will help you maintain a healthy circulation for your muscles.
Why do we care about preventing office syndrome?
First of all, it hurts! Secondly, it’s annoying. Nobody in their right mind likes being in pain. If we aren’t careful, the discomfort can get to the point where you need to take medication or get physical therapy. Why is this a problem? Well, getting physical therapy means you’re up close and personal with another person. During this pandemic that’s not a great idea. Oh! One last tip before I go. Those short hourly breaks I talked about. Video call a friend to do the stretches or exercises with you. Just for a minute or so. It’s also good to stay in touch with your team. To help you work and collaborate well, here are “7 tips to stay in sync with your team when working remotely”. Stay safe, stay healthy, and see you on the other side.