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A PT’s Survival Guide to Making Work from Home Work for You

By: Bianca Buliga, Senior Marketing Manager

Raise your hand if your workflow has changed significantly recently. A few weeks ago, you may have been commuting into a corporate office wearing a suit and answering emails on your desktop. Today, you probably took your laptop and morning coffee out on the patio to work from a lounge chair… still wearing your pajamas. 

working from home

While this is a welcome change of pace for some of us, we can’t ignore the physical impact that a shifting workspace can have on our bodies. Are your neck and shoulders aching? Are you starting to feel tingling and pain in your wrists and arms? Are your hips feeling more stiff and sore than usual? These are all symptoms of postural dysfunction, which can lead to injury over time.

To help alleviate this discomfort, SEED SPOT invited Matt Carter, Doctor of Physical Therapy, to host a webinar on how to make working from home work for YOU. As a DPT in Bend, Oregon where 12 percent of the population works remotely (the highest in the nation!), Matt is an expert in creating a home work environment that sets you up for success. Here are some of the tips and tricks he shared with us:

Remember the Basics of Posture

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes… or something like that. According to Matt, the basics of posture come down to ear, shoulders, and hips. Your ears, outside section of your shoulders, and knobby bone in your tip (trochanter) need to be aligned to maintain good ergonomics and posture. 

Avoid “Tech Neck”

Formally known as upper cross syndrome, “tech neck” is a term that physical therapists use to describe the neck and shoulder pain associated with hunching over to look down at a device while working. Here are some simple steps to avoid a painful bout of “tech neck”: 

  • Make sure your screen is at eye level so that your eyes are looking forward and your neck isn’t scrunched.
  • Keep a muscular tone between your shoulder blades to avoid a rounded position that tightens your pecs and pulls your head forward.
  • Keep your wrists and elbows at a 90-degree angle. If you let your wrists flop, this can lead to carpal tunnel. If you overextend your wrists, this can cause stiffness in your elbows. Find a way to rest your elbows for extra support, either on your desk or monitor arms. 
  • Finally, keep your feet flat on the ground. If you can’t quite reach, sit on a pillow or adjust your desk/chair height as needed.

working from home

Movement is Key

When it comes to working from home, staying static is the enemy. Don’t be afraid to start your day at your standing desk, migrate to the kitchen table around lunch, and then take a seat at your office desk in the afternoon. While there’s no perfect formula, Matt suggests spending 80% of your day sitting and 20% standing. 

Prioritize Stretching

Regardless of whether you’re sitting or standing, it’s crucial to block time off to get that blood flowing! Here are some of Matt’s favorite stretches:

  • Scapular Squeeze: In this exercise, you pull your scapulae (or shoulder blades) back, scrunch them together, hold it for a second or two, and then relax. Matt recommends doing 4-5 squeezes at a time, several times a day. 
  • Chin Tuck: Stand with your back up against a wall. Lean your head on the wall, pull your chin in, and let the back of your head slide up. Your head should only move about an inch or so, but will help you stretch your upper neck muscles and strengthen the deep cervical flexors in your throat. 
  • Doorway Stretch: Find a doorway, stagger your feet, and place your forearms on each side of the doorway. Lean your body through the threshold to open up your chest and feel the stretch in your sternum and biceps.
  • Scarecrow Stretch: Lay on the ground with a mild chin tuck and splay your arms out on both sides of your body in a T shape with your palms up… just like a scarecrow! 
  • Goal Post Stretch: Just like in scarecrow, you lay on the ground with your chin tucked in. Rather than splaying our arms out straight, arrange them in a cactus pose. Your arms will be bent at 90 degrees with your palms facing up.
  • Cat-Cow Pose: Get on your hands and knees, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your knees directly underneath your hips. Move into cat pose by arching your back up to the ceiling and tucking your tailbone under. From cat pose, ease into cow pose by looking up towards the ceiling, pulling your head up, and pushing your belly button down. Move back and forth five to six times, keeping your movements fluid and slow.

working from home

Matt suggests doing stretches at the top of every hour, or at least a couple times a day as your schedule allows for it. He recommends doing shorter chunks more frequently (i.e. five minutes of stretching once per hour rather than 30 minutes of stretching twice per day).

Tend to Your Discomfort

If you’re feeling pain, pay attention to it and treat it accordingly. By recognizing your discomfort, you can then take steps to correct your posture and fix abnormalities. To manage lingering pain that doesn’t go away overnight, take plenty of breaks and alternate between ice and heat. Matt says that ice is better for dealing with pain, while heat alleviates stiffness and allows for easier movement. 

Shop Smart (and Local!)

For this webinar, SEED SPOT partnered with Goodmans Interior Structures, an office furniture supplier and certified B Corporation based in Phoenix, AZ. Goodmans designed a special package to make working from home more comfortable and productive for you. You can view a few of their easy-to-use and artfully-designed pieces HERE. If you are interested, contact Adam Goodman, President of Goodmans Interior Structures, here: adamgoodman@goodmans.com 

working from home

Additionally, TheraSpecs is a SEED SPOT alum that helps people with chronic illness and light sensitivity, many of whom may now find themselves relying more on their devices for remote work and/or pandemic-related information. TheraSpecs makes glasses that are precision-tinted to block the most harmful blue light coming from screens, thus reducing the likelihood of pain and other symptoms among those most sensitive to light. For a limited time only, visit their website to get 15 percent off any TheraSpecs order with code SEEDSPOT15.

working from home

In a time where so much seems out of our control, take back control by creating a work environment that keeps you focused and motivated. Watch the complete webinar recording HERE and see a complete list of upcoming *virtual* programs HERE.

Bianca Buliga

Download SEED SPOT’s 2017 Impact Report