Working from home

It can literally be a pain in the neck.

March 30, 2020


Chances are you’re reading this from home, staying socially distanced as has been required by many businesses in our state. Chances also are you’ve spent days slumped on your couch, feet on a coffee table and your laptop on your knees for eight hours straight.

Your neck might be sore, your back kind of achy, and half of your fingers may be tingling and numb.

Time to set up a real home work station, and it won’t require any expensive purchases or fancy furniture. Your goal is to be sitting up straight with no effort, well supported, with both your keyboard and monitor at the proper height.

Start with the chair

Find a chair in your house that you like. Kitchen chairs often work pretty well. Then, ask yourself the following:

  • Can you sit with your bottom all the way to the back of the chair?
  • Do your feet rest flat on the floor?
  • If you relax 10% of your 100% perfect posture, does the chair back stop you from collapsing any further?

If you need more support, try putting a rolled towel in the small of your back. And if your feet don’t quite reach the floor, place a box under your feet.

Add a work surface

Look for something that’s about the same height as your elbows when you're sitting in your chair to work. There must be room below it for your legs. A kitchen table, desk, workbench or plank lying across two bookcases or end tables will work.

This is where your keyboard will sit, placed along the edge nearest you so that you don't have to reach forward to have your fingers on the keys.

With shoulders relaxed and upper arms hanging loosely at your sides, all you need to do is bend your elbows and wiggle your fingers to type. Your hands shouldn’t be bent too far up or down as you type.

Position the monitor

Proper monitor height can have a big impact on your posture, which in turn affects comfort. The proper height depends on a few factors:

  • Sit in your chair with your fingers resting on the keyboard. Close your eyes, settle in, then open your eyes. They should be gazing at the center or slightly below the center of the monitor.
  • Align the top of your monitor with your eyebrows.
  • Do you wear multifocal or progressive lenses? Adjust the monitor so the center or slightly below center is in focus when you are sitting in a supported good posture.
  • Make sure you don’t have to tilt your head up or down or turn it to the left or right to see the monitor.

Be creative with adjusting your monitor. If it’s too low, put books under it to raise it. If you’re using a laptop, consider getting a second keyboard and placing the laptop on a stack of books for proper viewing height.

Take regular breaks

The body doesn’t like staying in any one position for more than about 20 minutes. So be sure to get up every half hour or so for a three-minute break and a bit of stretching.

On your lunch break, walk around the block. Keep a distance of six feet between you and others, and cough or sneeze into your elbow. Wash your hands for 20 seconds when you get home, following the instructions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Proper workplace ergonomics and regular stretch breaks are important ways to prevent back, neck, shoulder and arm pain. If home is now your office, do what you need to do to make it work for you.


By Kaja Potter-Rudinow, PTA, CLT-UE

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The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.