The Wu-Tang Clan was right with the title of their debut single. We should all protect our necks. Many of us are working with laptops these days. Sitting at home, in flexible workspaces or open-plan offices. Poor posture at work can cause all kinds of health problems. This is what you can do to prevent them.
The picture of Emma shocked me. She was an unhealthy looking woman with a hunched back, red eyes, swollen wrists and hairy ears. Who was she?
A few weeks ago I read an article that explained what an office worker could look like in the year 2040. They even created a model: Emma. And it was not a pretty sight.
I knew that doing office work for a long period of time can be very unhealthy. But I never thought that it could also alter our bodies. But it can! We can all become Emma if we are not careful.
Poor posture will give us permanently bad backs from sitting hunched over a desk for long periods of time.
Sitting will cause all kinds of problems with our blood flow. Our eyes will go red by staring at computer screens and our wrists will become swollen from repetitive movement. And the hairy ears? Those are caused by skin problems and poor air quality.
My home office
Last week I finished setting up my home office. For years – when working from home – I was working on my laptop anywhere in the house. I was sitting at the kitchen table, on the couch, in the bedroom and in the attic.
That was never a problem for me. I even praised myself for being able to work anywhere. But recently I started getting neck pain and my physiotherapist explained to me that my (poor) posture was causing it. Especially my posture when I was working on my laptop from home at the kitchen table, on the couch etc.
Strain on my neck muscles
He told me that – when I am reading and typing on my laptop – I am looking down to the screen. The human head weighs 11 pounds (5 kg) on average. And when it is tilted forward when you are looking at your laptop screen, that weight is doubled! Causing a lot of strain on your neck muscles. Certain muscles are tightening up or shortening while others lengthen and become weak.
I took his advice seriously and started setting up a proper home office in the attic. I installed a desk, chair and lamp. On the desk I created a docking station for my laptop with a large monitor, separate keyboard and trackpad.
My posture improved
My posture while working at home improved dramatically and after a few days my neck pain disappeared. I was relieved that I was not becoming Emma. And I also noticed that I was getting a lot more done!
But it did make me think about all those people working on laptops these days. In all kinds of places, like flexible workspaces and open-plan offices. Those places are killing productivity. But they are also causing poor posture for the people working there. Sitting with a laptop (or even a monitor) at desks that are not set up properly can cause all kinds of health problems. Yes, you may become Emma too!
Prevent health problems caused by poor posture
This is what you can do to prevent health problems caused by poor posture.
Check your desk setup
Before you start working, check your setup. Is your chair okay? Your desk in the right height? Is your head straight when you are reading on your screen? Or are you looking down and straining your neck muscles?
Take regular short breaks and do exercizes
When you are working, take regular short breaks. Check your posture and do exercizes while sitting at your desk. Sit up straight and roll your shoulders backwards. Tuck your chin in and turn your neck to the left and to the right.
Take long breaks and walk
Take longer breaks every hour. Get away from your desk and walk. Stride through the office, take the stairs up and down or go outside.
Set up a proper home office
When you are regularly working from home, set up a home office with a proper chair and desk. Create a docking station for your laptop with a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse/trackpad.