Co-Founder Fayaadh Dhansay was recently interviewed by RCS on the ergonomics of working from home. Read more on how you can improve your work-from-home life. Originally posted on rcs.co.za.
Working from home may have its comfort perks, but keeping your physical health in check is crucial. We unpack how.
Work ergonomics is all about creating a safe and conducive working environment for the employee. But what does this mean when working from home increasingly becomes the norm? “In the home setting, the typical work culture is easy to forget so we tend to find creature comforts that seem nice, but often negatively affect our work process,” says Co-founder and Director of Bio Mechanix – which consults for RCS to assist employees with specific needs, Fayaadh Dhansay.
With many South Africans having to work without a dedicated office space at home, there are a few common mistakes that are made as they try stay productive. “We often just grab any chair, plonk ourselves down in front of a table, and grind away for hours. This is the first mistake,” says Dhansay. Not taking into careful consideration the potential strain the habits you form, how you sit and where you work from could have long-term health risks that may ultimately result in thousands spent in healthcare expenses to remedy sore backs and necks or even affect your ability to continue to work and generate and an income in the most severe cases.
In this infographic, Dhansay, who holds an Honours Degree in Biokinetics, and is also a partner in Dhansay & Roberts Biokineticists, a private Biokinetics practice, focusing on orthopaedic rehabilitation, shares what to keep in mind when working from home.
Q: Please could you share a bit about your experience and role at Biomechanix?
I am the co-founder and director of Bio Mechanix, a specialist wellness company established in 2014. I have been actively involved in occupational wellness, having completed my Honours Degree in Biokinetics in 2009, with my thesis focused on the influence of exercise on wellness in a corporate environment (this study was completed at RCS offices in Goodwood, Cape Town). We have been a service provider to RCS since 2014.
We also have a strong focus on sports conditioning, where I am deeply involved in tennis strength & conditioning and rehabilitation, and have been fortunate enough to work with our Davis Cup team, as well as toured on the ATP Tour.
Beyond this, I am a partner in Dhansay & Roberts Biokineticists, a private Biokinetics practice, focusing on orthopaedic rehabilitation.
We have branches in Newlands and Green Point, Cape Town.
QMany South Africans don’t have a home office or dedicated workspace which may be costing them in the short and long-term from an ergonomics point of view. What are the common mistakes people make and need to avoid when working from home from?
In the home setting, the typical work culture is easy to forget so we tend to find creature comforts that seem nice but often negatively affect our work process. I’ve split these into a few common mistakes and provided simple solutions.
We often just grab any chair, plonk ourselves down in front of a table, and grind away for hours. This is the first mistake. Office chairs are ergonomically designed to support the body as one spends hours in front of a table at a specific height. Using a workstation that is not ergonomically appropriate for long periods of sitting will shorten the time it takes to build up tension in many areas of the body, including the neck, shoulders and back. This is of course a precursor to all sorts of aches and pains.
Ensure you use a purpose-built height adjustable office chair (a mid-back unit is more than sufficient), and a table/desk that has approximately 65-75cm height from the ground, with space under the desk for your legs. Ensure this is positioned in a well-lit environment, free of distractions.
The ‘extended version’ of an inappropriate workstation would be to try and make use of a couch/sofa. The danger of course being the same as above, but with the added risk of falling asleep!
Stay off the couch!
The worst of the lot is trying to do work while in bed. Beyond the potential ergonomic issues, this is a bad idea since it could have a negative impact on your central nervous system. The body usually associates the bed with rest, relaxation and sleep. When we try working on/in our beds, our central nervous system starts associating that environment with ‘work.’ So even when not doing work, getting into bed triggers the brain to start functioning at a higher level (as if you’re about to start working) and often leads to restlessness and difficulty falling asleep.
Beds are made for sleeping.
5. Breaks/Work hours
Working from home can easily result in laziness/inefficiency due to the numerous distractions, though we have seen more cases of the opposite i.e. working for too many hours at a time without taking a break since there is no fixed coffee/lunch time, travel time, or dedicated end of day time. This results in extra hours of work which might seem more productive, but could easily lead to burnout.
Create a work schedule, with fixed time periods specifying the start of day, work blocks, meeting times, dedicated breaks, and a fixed end of day time.
Q: What are the 3 easy ergonomics habits one should always consider adopting when working from home i.e. don’t hunch at your laptop, ensure adequate lighting, use an office chair?
- Try, as best you can, to maintain a well set up workstation (see diagram below for guidelines).
- Set a timer to go off every 25mins, and walk around for 5min after each alarm so you are forced to move. Once you’ve gone through 4 cycles like this, take a longer (25min) break before getting back to work.
- If you are going to be sitting for long periods of time, invest in a good quality office chair.
Q: What affordable household products can people buy/use to improve their experience?
- A lumbar support is a nice addition to even the most comfortable office chairs. We like it because it provides an element of support to the lumbar (lower back) curve, but its structure allows for some movement at the vertebral level so provides the best of both worlds.
- A mobility ball is a perfect little self-massage tool. We like it because it’s the perfect size and consistency to get into those hard to reach spots on your body.
- An old Yellow Pages is the perfect alternative to a screen raise. Use it (and/or other books) to achieve the perfect screen height at your home workstation.
Q: What is the best sitting posture?
Scientifically speaking, there is no ‘perfect posture.’ There are however certain positions that are less straining on our bodies than others, and in order to achieve this we should set up our workstations as close as possible to the ergonomic model as in the diagram below:
Having said that, the simplest answer to the question would be: “your next posture.” What I mean by this is that sitting is not the problem, the lack of movement is. Most positions/postures are perfectly fine and healthy for the body. Excessive time spent in any one position is what brings about sitting related issues.
MOVE! Taking regular breaks from your workstation to move your body is the real fix.
Q: Are there any easy DIY stretches you can share?
While almost any movement is beneficial to a desk worker, we’ve highlighted some effective exercises that can be used to keep those muscles and joints happy. Perform 1 set of 10 repetitions of each of the following exercises during each break.
Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart with arms stretching high up above your head. Place your feet about 20cm in front of your chair and slowly push your hips back till your buttocks just about touch your seat, at the same time lowering your arms so that they’re stretched out in front of you. Then slowly stand up again, raising your arms overhead as you do. Be sure to squeeze your buttocks throughout the entire movement.
2. Shoulder Shrugs
Shrug your shoulders up as high as you can, hold for 5-10s, then slowly relax it and lower your shoulders all the way back down. This can be done standing or seated.
3. Jefferson Curls
This is a fancy version of bending over and touching your toes. The aim is to fold your body in half one piece at a time, starting with the head, then neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, hips, until your hands are hanging as low as they can go. Then slowly get back to a standing position by returning in the reverse order.
4. Calf Raises
Standing on a flat surface, or on the edge of a step (on the ball of your foot), raise yourself up to your tiptoes, and slowly lower yourself down again.
While seated in your chair, rotate your body around with the aim of getting your shoulders as far around the back as you can while your legs remain where they are. Perform this in both directions until you feel the stretch in your back, but try to avoid ‘clicking’ your back as this can be harmful in done excessively.
How do you keep active with working from home?
Tell us your tricks and tips to keep the heart pumping and those bones lubricated while working fro home. Simply comment below or contact us here.