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The costly mistake you’re probably making while working from home

·3-min read
Woman stretching sore back working from home
Many of us love the flexibility of working from home but it can come at the expense of our health and bank balances. (Source: Getty)

If you peck away at your laptop everyday without a separate keyboard, chances are you’re on track for some expensive physio bills.

Physiotherapist Richard Fuller told Yahoo Finance this was one of the most common mistakes he has seen with makeshift working-from-home (WFH) setups, but it’s not the only blunder employees have made.

In fact, new research commissioned by Officeworks has found more than 70 per cent of Aussie employees have experienced health issues due to ill-equipped remote-working setups.

Despite these complaints, the data shows people still want to work from home.

The Officeworks research found almost two-thirds of employees were more satisfied and productive with their WFH arrangements than commuting into the office five days a week.

With many people continuing to work from home, even as COVID restrictions have lifted, Fuller said he commonly had patients complaining about stiffness and soreness from a dodgy home workspace set up.

He said companies typically - but not always - put a lot of effort into their computer setups to ensure they were ergonomically sound.

By contrast, he said workers often pulled up a hard chair at the kitchen table, or even sit on the couch or lie down on a bed, when working from home.

In fact, only 55 per cent of employees had a dedicated office or study for working from home, according to the new research.

Other respondents to the survey had fashioned other areas of the home, such as the kitchen or living area (32 per cent), spare room (29 per cent), or bedroom (22 per cent) into a workspace.

Fuller said there was a large body of evidence to show if you didn’t set yourself up well for static work at a desk, you were likely to develop strain injuries.

“It doesn't take much deviation from the optimal conditions to start having a negative impact,” he said.

How to make sure you have a safe and comfortable work setup

Fuller has some easy guidelines:

  • Keep your keyboard and screen separate - By tapping away at a laptop, you aren’t at a suitable distance from the screen. It’s best avoided for long periods, Fuller said.

  • Make sure your table surface is the correct height - A fixed-height table may not necessarily be the right height for you. Fuller said this was one of the reasons offices had switched to adjustable desks.

  • Keep your feet on the floor - Your feet need to stay in contact with the floor because when they're not bearing weight, it increases pressure on the spine and can lead to back pain. For those on the shorter side, Fuller recommends setting up a foot platform to bring the floor closer to you. These aren’t too expensive, he said, or you can even make your own.

  • Buy a decent-quality, adjustable chair - Fuller said consumers may feel overwhelmed by the plethora of office chairs on the market but the key thing was to get one you could adjust (that is, not a hard kitchen chair). If you are struggling to get the chair in the right position, Fuller recommends seeking professional advice.

  • Get moving - Do some stretches, make yourself a cup of tea - just don’t sit glued to your screen for hours on end.

Fuller said sitting in the same position for an extended period could lead to much bigger problems than muscle stiffness, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even premature death.

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