When your office is your bed, kitchen table, couch, or floor
The global pandemic has had far-reaching consequences that affect the way we work and socialize. We've had to say goodbye to our workplace office space, ergonomic chairs, standing desks, conference rooms, and 1:1 coffee meetings. We've had to question and weigh the need to visit our physical therapist and put off getting a massage because of social distancing concerns.
Working from home is hard (and exhausting)
For many of us, our work from home setup is far from ideal. We work cross-legged, scrunched up, or splayed out across our bed, couch, or floor. The kitchen table has doubled as the place to take Zoom video calls and chat with colleagues on Slack. Even with a proper desk and comfortable chair, we're getting up less frequently when dealing with back-to-back video meetings.
With our dependence on technology and lack of ergonomic options, we are spending more time in positions that negatively affect our posture. The World Economic Forum noted that working remotely will lead to "bad backs through poor ergonomic posture." And, years before the current pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) claimed that back-related pain contributed to an estimated $100 to $200 billion in annual costs in the US alone.
We rely on technology now more than ever
Most of us can't get away from technology. The average person spends at least 6.5 hours a day sitting, and the average adult is said to spend more than 3.5 hours looking down on their smartphone. Internet broadband usage has gone up 47% since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Zoom video conferencing went from 10 million participants in December to 300 million participants this April. With stay-at-home rules and social distancing measures in place, video game usage has spiked with Nielsen reporting that the US saw a 45% increase, followed by France 38%, UK 29%, and Germany 20%. Social media platforms have reported record usage.
We've developed new habits and new postures
A renowned maker of ergonomic office products, Steelcase, conducted a posture study that found smartphones and tablets have "dramatically changed work postures. With devices in hand, people shift between tasks and devices, creating unprecedented variability in postures. Researchers determined that many of the postures driven by the new smaller devices were causing pain and contributing to unhealthy stresses and strains on the body."
The driving point is that our lives center around technology, and we have to be more mindful of the effects it has on our body.
Improve your WFH setup (even without a desk)
While we may feel tethered to our devices, there are practical things we can do.
- Pay attention to your body. If you feel pain or discomfort, readjust how you're sitting or take a break.
- Adjust yourself regularly. It's natural to start slouching if you've been sitting or standing in the same position for a prolonged period of time.
- Get up and move around frequently. It's important to give your body a break, and helps you reset your posture when you resume work again.
- Keep your devices at eye level - that goes for your computer, smartphone, and tablet. Look down with your eyes, but not with your neck.
- Reduce extended screen time. Take regular breaks from your devices. Too much screen time can contribute to general fatigue and poor posture habits.
While our reliance on technology is here to stay, we can create a better ergonomic setup and strike a balance through our individual choices.
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