3 Common WFH Workstations & How to Optimise Them

Most Singaporeans are working from home during this circuit breaker period, but not everyone would have a comfortable WFH Workstation. With the sudden announcement of the circuit breaker, many scrambled to find suitable furniture for their WFH workstation setup. If you are one of those who do not have a proper desk and chair setup, you may find yourself experiencing more aches and pains while working from home as compared to the office. We are here to help with that. In this article, our physiotherapist, Madeline shares some simple tips on optimising common WFH workstations to increase your comfort level and reduce your aches.

Working at the Dining Table

When you work at your dining table, your neck might be forced to extend if your monitor screen is too high. This is detrimental for your posture as it adds a lot of compression to your joints in the neck. Extending your neck for a prolonged period of time can cause fatigue in the muscles and result in neck aches. Conversely, if your monitor screen is too low, you can also strain your neck by looking down at your monitor for long periods.

Most dining chairs are not optimal for long hours of work as they do not provide adequate support for your lower back. In addition, most dining chairs do not have arm rests which allow support for your arms while you type on your keyboard.

Tips to optimise this WFH Workstation

To avoid neck strains, set your monitor/display at eye level. If you are using a laptop, consider either adding an external monitor or using an external keyboard. A portable keyboard will provide you the flexibility of adjusting your laptop monitor to an ideal height for a neutral neck position. You can use a laptop stand or even prop a pile of books under the laptop to align the height of the monitor screen. 

If your chair height is too low, consider adding a seat cushion to raise the seat height. Additionally, if your dining chair does not have a back support, use a pillow or a rolled-up towel to support the whole back. For chairs without armrests, consider shifting the keyboard and mouse further so that you can use part of the dining table for forearm support.

Working with laptop on your lap (on sofa/bed)

If your WFH Workstation involves a laptop and you do not have a desk available, many end up working on their bed or sofa. When use your laptop on your lap, you are creating a lot of strain in your neck from prolonged looking down at your screen. This poor position promotes a slouched posture for the rest of your spine, contributing to upper and lower back aches. While you are seated on your bed/sofa, you may adopt awkward postures such as crossing your leg or slouching to one side. Resting your laptop on crossed knees is not recommended especially if you have underlying knee problems. In this position, you may overstretch the ligaments and muscles surrounding the knee. This increases pressure on the knee joints, causing pain or discomfort. 

Tips to optimise this WFH Workstation

Keep changing positions to prevent excessive strain on certain parts of the body. Limit the amount of time you spend with your knees bent or crossed to provide relief and blood flow to your knee joints. You are recommended to take periodic breaks every 30 minutes to move around the house or do some stretching. This also promotes good circulation in your lower limbs. You may consider purchasing a foldable laptop table/stand, as it can provide some ergonomic comfort and allow you the ease of adjusting the monitor height to eye level. If you tend to spend long hours at your laptop, it is still recommended to adopt a desk and chair for better support. 

Working with laptop in prone position

If you enjoy lying on your tummy and working on your laptop, do take note that staying in this position for an extended duration can also lead to potential neck & back strains. When you are resting in this position, you will likely hike your shoulders, and position your forearm and low back in an awkward position, which puts a lot of pressure on your joints. Additionally, when you rest in the position, you are putting pressure on your core muscles and diaphragm.  Putting too much stress over these muscles can prevent you from taking deep breaths leading to shallower breathing.  

Tips to optimise this WFH Workstation

Do use this position mainly for relaxing and not for prolonged hours of work. Mix up your tasks to avoid long, uninterrupted stretches of using the laptop. Set a timer/alarm for every 30mins so that you remind yourself to get up and walk around regularly. 

Use the suggestions above, give it a try for a few weeks and set yourself reminders for breaks. Finally, if you are looking to improve your posture, don’t limit yourself to just good sitting or working posture. Incorporating some exercises and stretching in your daily routine will be beneficial in helping you maintain and achieve better posture. This in turn improves your quality of life and increases the comfort of working from home.