Preventing and managing musculoskeletal issues when working from home

Ensuring a safe posture when working from home

A good workstation set-up, maintaining good posture and regular, short physical and visual breaks, are crucial to preventing or aggravating musculoskeletal issues when working from home with display screen equipment (DSE). This is particularly important when working from home for prolonged and regular periods of time.

Advice on sitting correctly is available on the NHS website here. Equipment such as a chair, desk, separate monitor, keyboard and mouse that can be adjusted to enable good sitting posture is ideal, but where they are not available, the following may be helpful:

  • Taking regular, short, physical breaks away from your desk – for one or two minutes every 30 minutes is the best way to reduce risk if an ideal workstation set-up is not available. Regular visual breaks – looking away from the screen and at something at a different distance to the screen – are also helpful to reduce eye strain
  • If working from a laptop, use a separate keyboard and mouse, if possible. This means that you can use books or another solid and stable item to raise your laptop screen – ideally, so that the top of the screen is in line with your eyes and tilted slightly upward. Using a separate mouse is also better than using a trackpad, as it keeps your hand, wrist and arm in a more neutral position
  • Working from home means that there are fewer opportunities for natural changes of activity, such as going to meetings or popping over to a colleague’s desk. Where possible, try to change your position regularly – for example placing your laptop on an ironing board (extended to full height) when taking a call or virtual meeting means that you can stand for a short while
  • Make sure your working environment is well lit, but try to avoid/ minimise glare on your screen, as this can contribute to eye strain
  • If you can, use a table or desk and a chair with a firm backrest as the basis for your workstation. Exercise balls are fine, but only for very short bursts of no longer than 15 minutes!

North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS) – part of the NHS – has developed a set of top tips to help individuals working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Read them here.

Preventing and managing musculoskeletal issues

(Taken from Business in the Community and Public Health England’s “Musculoskeletal Health Toolkit for Employers”)

The NHS has video exercise guides for different parts of the body, which can help with the prevention and management of musculoskeletal issues, such as lower pack pain and shoulder issues:

In addition, Sport England has launched a platform called “Stay in, work out”, which pulls together a range of free digital resources, such as video and app-based exercise classes and channels – no matter what your preference or age. The Body Coach Joe Wickes’ popular weekday PE workouts for schoolchildren and adults also features. The list of resources is being updated regularly, so check it out here.

Xenia Koumi

Xenia is a Public Health Specialist at the City of London Corporation and leads the Business Healthy programme