If you are like most people, you’ve probably been spending much more time at home recently due to the coronavirus! In addition to all the new activities you’ve probably been doing at your house, you’ve probably also been spending a lot of time working from home. Several weeks into this home quarantine your achy neck and back may be telling you that you need to reassess your home workstation setup. If so you need to keep reading!!

In this article I’m going to tell you what you need to know to be able to create your ideal work from home space, which will allow you to reduce the strain on your neck and back and improve your work efficiency and productivity, while staying within your budget!

Now before you run to the internet and start searching standing desk options, you’ll want to first assess your current situation. What will you be primarily be using this works pace for? Is this a long term set up? How much physical space do you have? What equipment do you currently have available to you? What equipment do you need? If you don’t know an answer to that last question, don’t worry, we will figure this out together.

For the purposes of this article we are going to assume that your work requires you to be on a computer and seated a minimum of 4 hours a day.  If this workstation set up is only meant to be a short term solution then you’re probably not looking to spend a lot of money. However, if this workstation is something you plan to be using for years to come, then you may want to consider this as more of an investment in your long term health. How much is your health and your ability to perform your job for many years to come worth? Now you may be thinking “I already have a computer, a chair, and a desk…what else could I need”. The fact is that may be all you need. However, you won’t truly know what you truly need until you complete a full assessment of what you currently have and what is actually necessary to maintain good mechanics and body health while being productive and efficient throughout your workday.

Now that you’ve completed your current inventory list of all the equipment you have for your home work space, create a second list… we will call this your “wish list”. This is a list of all the things you’d ideally love for your home office. This may include your dream automated standing desk, a fancy duel monitor set up, and a decked out chair that looks more like something from the “Starship Enterprise” than a traditional office chair. Now before you get all discouraged by the cost, remember this is your wish list; knowing the prices, what you truly need, and what your budget is will help you determine if that standing desk is really what you want!

In regards to your dream desk, an automated standing desk is great piece of equipment…but is this something you need? Standing desks have been all the craze the past few years, but have you really looked at what the benefits of a standing desk are vs. a traditional desk? Are you wanting a standing desk because your back has been hurting and you’ve read that this is the answer to all your back issues? Well the fact is whether you are standing for 4 hours or sitting for 4 hours, your back will still be under similar amounts of stress and compression, if maintained in the same position. So if you can achieve that same spinal alignment with a chair, why pay twice the price for a standing desk and put all that additional stress on your hips, knees, and ankles? Key factors to consider when choosing a desk:

1) Does it provide enough workable space for everything you need to put on it?

2) Does it meet the needs for your physical size (can you comfortably move in and out of it)?

3) Does it physically fit within the space you have?

Now let’s talk a bit more about that chair.  There are a million options available…everything including chairs that look like recliners, to chairs that put you in simulated kneeling position, to chairs that are balls. The most important aspect to consider when choosing a chair is does it allow your body to get into that ideal position and provide the necessary support to allow you to maintain that position throughout your work day. Key factors to consider when choosing a chair:

1) Does is allow your feet to touch the ground and fall directly under your knees (are your maintaining a 90 degree angle at your hips/knees/ankles)?

2) Can you get your hips all the way back into the chair while also maintaining the positioning previously outlined?

3) Can you adjust the arm rests to allow your arms to be positioned with your elbows at a 90 degree angle while your shoulders are resting and does it allow your arms to be comfortably turned in approximately 20 – 30 degrees?

Lastly let’s discuss your monitor. There are a lot of various options to consider with a monitor, which mostly comes down to personal preference in regards to brand, size, and display. The most important thing to keep in mind in regards to your monitor is the placement! Key factors to consider when choosing your monitor placement:

1) Height

2) Depth

3) Location within your office space

You want to make sure your monitor is positioned at a height that limits excessive neck flexion and extension (a.k.a your head falling too far forward or backwards)…typically this means keeping it eye level. Also you want to consider how close or far away the monitor is from you. This depends on the size of your screen or if you are using multiple screens. The bigger the monitor, or if using multiple monitors, you want to position yourself further away. This will limit the need to be repetitively turning your head and neck and reduce that repetitive strain. Typically this will put you 24” – 30” from the monitor. Finally when considering your monitor placement, you want to factor in your lighting and windows within the room. Avoid having the monitor placed directly underneath an overhead light, and to avoid sun glare position your monitor at a 90 degree angle to the window.

Obviously there are many things to consider when setting up your optimal work space…certainly well beyond what we’ve covered in this article. However if you keep these important key factors in mind in regards to your desk, chair, and monitor; you’ll be able to make better decisions as to what those must haves are to meet your physical needs and the needs of your budget. Remember the most important factor is that it works for you and allows you keep doing the great work that you do!!

(Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is presented for the purpose of education only. Nothing contained in this report is intended to be instructional for medical diagnosis or treatment.

The information should not be considered complete, nor should it be relied on to suggest a course of treatment for a particular individual. It should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider. Information obtained in this report is not exhaustive and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions or their treatment. Should you have any health care related questions, please call or see your physician or other qualified healthcare provider promptly. Always consult with your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this report. )

By Dr. Ken Corcoran, PT, DPT, SCS, CEAS