Working from home may be the "new normal," but for many, it's been a challenge to get into the groove, especially when it comes to sitting hunched at my desk all day.
As we make our way through month ten of the pandemic (I know, I can't believe it either!), there are some things we've gotten used to and some that are still a work in progress. And unfortunately for my back, it appears to be the latter.
I decided to put an end to my endless scrolling looking for a million possible answers, and decided to speak to Jess Messias, a Montreal-based physiotherapist and Director of Sports Medicine & Performance at Dynamix, a new health, wellness and fitness centre here in the city.
"The shift from office to WFH hit a lot of us pretty hard – me included. After 9 months of my patients and me experiencing it in our own homes, I've picked up a few favourite strategies. These should help with the transition from your usual work space to your home office!"
Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.
What are the biggest mistakes that people have been making while working from home? What are some simple solutions?
For many, WFH felt like a much-needed break from their typical hour-long commutes on sweaty metros, and a nice excuse to "live a little." The single biggest mistake I see is embracing this freedom a bit too much and losing sight of our positive habits and routines.
Our bodies, generally speaking, like to be in a state of consistency. When our exercise levels, hours of sleep and calories consumed remain relatively stable, our bodies know what to expect and typically feel good.
I recommend maintaining habits while working from home, even if your schedule allows for more freedom. A consistent bedtime and wake-up, a balanced assortment of meals and snacks, and pre-determined workout days are a sure-fire way to keep your body feeling good!
What are things that people should be doing every day to help with their back pain?
Our current medical research tells us it's difficult to pinpoint any specific postures or movements that lead to back pain.
What we can pretty confidently say is that significant changes in exercise levels and other lifestyle factors (stress, nutrition, sleep, etc.) at one time can make us more vulnerable to the typical aches we notice in the back, neck and shoulders. Making up for less overall activity is crucial.
Think about how many times you're getting up from your desk to use the washroom, speak with a colleague or take a walk downtown. These small breaks add up and your body is used to this!
The more you can replicate this at home, the less likely you are to shock your system into a state of discomfort. Frequent breaks from your desk and changing sitting positions throughout the day are two simple hacks for being less likely to feel that tension we all loathe.
Let's make sure to keep exercise and lifestyle factors in check.
How can you set up your office to prevent doing more harm than good?
A solid office setup is less about perfect sitting positions and desk arrangements. Instead, create an environment you can feel productive in.
I like to keep things simple. A clear, uncluttered desk that is well-lit is your starting point. When trying to keep stress levels down, positively influencing our concentration can make a nice difference. Further, find a chair that is comfortable, moves in and out of your desk easily, and allows for a variety of different sitting positions. Don't be afraid to slouch!
Being comfortable at your desk and intentional about maintaining the healthy habits that have gotten you to where you are are key for anyone that gets to roll out of bed into their office.
As always, if this free time has you wanting to create new positive habits, great! Build them slowly and one at a time so that they stick, and your body can adjust.
You got this!