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A step-by-step guide to ensuring your home office isn’t injuring your body

Of those who have been fortunate enough to be able to work remotely during the pandemic, chances are your home was not quite prepared to become your full-time office.

Whether you’re tapping away at that desk you panic-bought, you’re sitting at the kitchen table with the kids or you’re sneaking off to the couch, physiotherapist Luke Pickett says it’s important to consider how you are positioning your body.

You don't want to end up in pain from poor workstation ergonomics.
You don’t want to end up in pain from poor workstation ergonomics.CREDIT:ISTOCK

Pickett says his practice, Melbourne Physio Clinic, has seen a doubling in patients with work-related injuries since lockdown. He says there was a spike in patients in late March when people were transitioning to working from home, and now he’s seeing a new surge as injuries set in.

“We’re actually getting the true fallout now of poor ergonomic positions,” he says.

It’s why he’s encouraging people to examine their setups and apply ergonomic principles at their home workstation – and eventually, back at the office – as much as they can.

Your posture

As comfortable as it may be to veg out on the couch, Pickett says, sitting is actually compromising the body’s most ergonomic position of standing upright. And considering most of us spend a huge chunk of our day sitting – research shows Australian adults sit for an average of 10 hours a day – it’s important to get it right.

Seated at your workstation, Pickett says you want to aim for 90-degree angles at your ankles, knees, hips and elbows. “It is key to start at the hips and then stack the head on the neck, the neck on the upper back and then the whole spine should be centred over the pelvis,” he says. “This will make a vertical line from the top of the head through to the centre of the pelvis.”

Then, Pickett says, you want your knees and torso to form a 90-degree angle, and the same with your ankles and feet, with your feet flat on the ground (you might need a foot rest).

Your elbows, too, should form a right angle, with your shoulders in a relaxed position and forearms resting on the desk, he says. And your wrists should also be relaxed, with your hands slightly raised and curved on your mouse and keyboard.

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