After having worked from home for many months now, our bodies have started to feel the difference. We don’t walk to work, we barely go and grab lunch outside, and instead, we spend most of our days sitting at the computer. How can we support our bodies and maintain good health in the future? We asked the founder of Fpohybu, Nela Dopanova, to share her tips and suggestions.
Physical problems caused by HO
The potential problem doesn’t lie in the home office, rather it lies in our approach to how we care about our bodies, ourselves. The main issue is that with home offices, lots of people are missing the everyday movement. This consists of going to the office, getting lunch, going back home, etc. This time now is filled with even more sitting.
When we were visiting offices, the average time spent sitting was around nine hours. From our current experience with webinars, employees sit at the home office on average 12 hours a day. The body works on the principle of cooperation. It is a complex "tool" where everything is related to everything. The health consequences of frequent sitting are not just those that we can directly see or feel, such as back pain, neck pain, weight gain, less energy.
Frequent sitting is also associated with an increase of civilization diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart attack. American cardiologists studied which sport is an ideal compensation for a sedentary lifestyle. The results showed that no sport, which we do for 1 hour a day, can compensate for the rest of the day spent sitting. It's time to get rid of the ‘training mindset’ and stop thinking that one hour of exercise is enough to compensate for the rest of the day spent in a passive position.
In connection with work from home and the closure of sports grounds, the number of employees with musculoskeletal pain is increasing. According to the ČSSZ alone, 2020 has up to 43% more spinal diseases than the average for the last five years. But even without this increasing number, for a long time, the second most common cause of incapacity for work has been musculoskeletal pain. The back pain medications are the second best-selling in the Czech Republic. I think the problems have been here for a long time, however, the home office situation made it worse and more visible.
How to prevent those injuries
When working from home, don’t be in a static position for a long time. Remember these principles:
1. Try to stand up from sitting as much as you can.
If you are not good at it, use some incentive. For example, set an alarm clock for 45min or divide the tasks into smaller chunks, and after completing each one gets up from the chair.
2. Keep moving whilst you are sitting.
Bear in mind the sentence ‘the best seat is the following one’. Try to switch between your creative positions and active position every once in a while. You can add some variations to your sitting by using tools like a gym ball, overball, or balance pillow for a chair, but just for a short amount of time (till you feel it straightens you up and you don't feel pain in your spine), generally 10min at the start.
I highly recommend a chair called Neseda. It is a chair that gives you more possibilities to sit. Anyone can come and try both models in our Prague showroom.
3. Make your work desk as ergonomic friendly as you can
Be creative in your working positions. I see this as a bright side of this situation - we are in a home environment. Our colleagues don't see us, so we can be creative and do all the things we would be ashamed to do in the office. For example, lying down whilst working.
For your work desk, the most ergonomics friendly points are:
- Height of your seat is that the hips are higher than the knees
- Laptop is not a good tool for long hours of work. (the least you can do is to buy an external keyboard to protect your neck)
- Your view is directed on the top third of the monitor.
Those are only some basics, for more recommendations, check out Fpohybu. I would also recommend going out every day, even if you don't have to. If you don’t like meaningless walks go for a fresh bakery in the morning or a coffee after lunch. If you have a meeting on the phone, take your headphones and go for a walk then.
From our experience, it is often difficult for employees to make a change at the individual level because the work environment and habits of other colleagues greatly affect us. For this reason, the company Fpohybu deals with the change of the company's movement culture. Join us too despite you being the only ambassador in your company.
Walking meetings, trying other places to work at, sitting on the ground, in a deep squat, cross-legged, standing, kneeling, walking barefoot, making compensatory movements while reading a document/email, waiting for coffee. We've only got one body, care for it well.
Tips & tricks
Make a short Home Office Salutation every day, where you move all your joints and strengthen your trunk.
Don’t forget to relax your eyes whilst working. You can learn the rule of 20-20-20. Every 20minutes, watch an object 20 meters away for 20 seconds.
Those are only some examples. Find one that works for you and make it a habit. I would recommend this habit accumulation technique when you find an activity that you do every day, such as an online meeting. Your new habit - actively sitting for 8 seconds - will then match the event and when the online meeting starts, you will sit in the active sitting. The options are endless, find one or two and implement it today.
Don’t underestimate the effects of small changes and add little movements to your daily routine. Everything counts and these small changes can have a significant impact on you and your health in the future.