At my office, I have a desktop computer. At home, I’ve used a laptop for many years – but, until the past eight weeks, I had never used a laptop for eight or more hours a day.
Two weeks ago, my neck started hurting. It got worse over the course of a couple of days. It got much better when the weekend came, and then hurt again on Monday, which confirmed my suspicion that I was having an ergonomics problem.
After googling “neck pain from laptop,” I realized I needed an external monitor. This way, I could type on the keyboard with my arms and hands at the proper level, while looking straight at the monitor (rather than down at the laptop monitor). I somewhat frantically searched for an external monitor I could purchase with contactless, curbside pickup at a nearby store, bought it, set it up, and thankfully, my neck recovered in a few days. (An alternative solution is propping up the laptop to look straight at the monitor, and adding an external keyboard and mouse.)
Of course, I am not the only person who has had this experience. Indeed, two days after I installed the monitor, the Wall Street Journal published an article, “Working from Home is Taking a Toll on our Backs and Necks.”
From the article, “Weeks of poor posture have led to backaches, neck pain and headaches, say physical therapists and other practitioners who are fielding more complaints…The North American Spine Society, an association of physicians, reports that exercises to reduce neck pain were the second most viewed item in April on its website for patients, up from fifth a year ago.”
Here are “Do’s and Don’ts for Working from Home” from the same article…
To reduce stress on the body while working from home, Dr. Karen Erickson of the American Chiropractic Association and Vivienne Fleischer of Performance Based Ergonomics recommend the following:
- If working on a laptop, put something underneath it to raise the screen to eye level, so that your head doesn’t angle downward to read.
- Use an external keyboard and mouse, to allow you to raise the computer screen while keeping your elbows by your sides when you type. Put your keyboard and mouse at the same level as your elbows.
- Don’t slouch. Sit on your “sit bones,’’ the bones at the bottom of your pelvis, and keep a little arch in your lower back. If needed, a pillow or rolled-up fabric can help maintain lumbar support.
- When reading or typing on a cellphone, rest your elbows on your chest and hold the phone at eye level. A headset helps avoid crunching the neck when using the phone.
- To keep from overloading any particular muscles, find places in your home where you can work in different positions—sitting, standing, even walking for short stretches if possible. Then change your location throughout the day.
- Take exercise breaks, if only to empty the dishwasher, climb stairs or put in a load of laundry.
Last, here are two additional articles you may find helpful:
Harvard Business Review: Tips to Reduce Screen Time While You’re Working From Home
Fast Company: Five alternatives to video communication